Pare the rind very thin from four fresh lemons, squeeze the juice, and strain it—put them both into a quart of water, sweeten it to your taste, add the whites of six eggs, beat to a froth; set it over the fire, and keep stirring until it thickens, but do not let it boil—then pour it in a bowl; when cold, strain it through a sieve, put it on the fire, and add the yelks of the eggs—stir it till quite thick, and serve it in glasses.
Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-Wife, 1824
YELLOW STIRRED CUSTARD WITH LEMON
Remove the zests of 2 large lemons with a vegetable peeler and squeeze and strain the juice. You want 1/3 cup juice or a little more; if you have less, squeeze another half lemon. In the top container of a double-boiler*, whisk 3 large egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar just until the mixture begins to froth. Whisk in 2 cups water and the lemon zest strips and strained juice and combine well. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, heat this mixture over simmering water until it thickens slightly (like raw egg white but a little runnier), about 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the top container from the pan, set the bottom in an inch or two of cold water, and let the mixture stand until cooled to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the yolks of the 3 eggs plus, if you wish, 1 or 2 additional yolks left over from the white custard. Stirring, heat the custard over simmering water until it is thick enough to ripple slightly, about 180 degrees. Immediately pour the custard through a fine sieve into a clean bowl, set the bottom of the bowl in cold water, and, stirring occasionally, cool the custard to room temperature. Transfer the custard to a covered container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or for up to 3 days) before serving. This recipe makes a generous 2 1/2 cups of custard, enough for 4 to 6 people (or twice as many if served with the white custard).
*See comments in the headnote to “White Stirred Custard with Orange and Mace.”