Citrus curd is one of the few ways to safely can up eggs at home. There’s plenty of high acid citrus juice which means that it’s safe for water bath canning. Canning lemon curd is specifically approved by the national center for food preservation. Canning lime curd works just as well, and they’re both perfect homemade gifts for the holidays.
Living in Vermont really has its perks and I love it most the year. Clearly, others do too, and just about every corner store seems to cater to tourists with cute gifts for passers-by wanting to take home a bit of the green mountain state. I can all my own jams, but I still love perusing the cute gift shelves in coffee shops for ideas. A few weeks ago I spotted a jar of locally made lemon curd canned up and shelf stable.
Wait just a minute…canning lemon curd? Really? That’s a thing? Lemon curd has both eggs and butter, and I thought both of those were on the no-fly list for home canning?
Apparently not, and once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Lemon curd is wicked acidic, and you’re basically slowly pasteurizing the eggs as the mixture thickens. The whole thing is then essentially pickled in lemon juice, making it safe for water bath canning.
My husband is particularly fond of limes, and I came across a bag of key limes I decided to try it out. Fair warning though, lime curd isn’t as photogenic as lemon curd. It doesn’t matter what citrus you use, the curd will still be yellow because of the egg yolks. As far as gifts are concerned, stick with lemon unless you know someone is a die-hard lime fan.
Start by bringing a water bath canner up to 180 degrees. Canning lemon curd is a bit different than most preserves which have you start with a boiling water bath canner. The citrus curd needs a slow buildup to boiling in the canning process, and this step cannot be skipped. You’ll need a dependable thermometer that can read up to 180 degrees to ensure you’re starting at the right temperature. Get the water warm and then keep it there while you prepare the citrus curd.
Next start water heating in a double boiler. While that heats, take the top bowl from the double boiler and whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs. Add in sugar and zest and whisk thoroughly before adding citrus juice and cold butter pieces. Place the whole pan onto the simmering pot as a double boiler and cook slowly while continuously whisking. It won’t look like much at the start, but as the mixture heats it’ll begin to thicken nicely.
Whisk continuously over the double boiler until it reaches a temperature of 170 degrees. This is easy to measure with a digital thermometer, and you’ll need one anyway for ensuring the water is the right temperature for the canning process. Once it’s 170 degrees, remove the bowl from the double boiler and continue to stir for another 5 minutes while the mixture continues to thicken.
At this point, many people put the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any clumps and filter out the citrus zest. I never bother with this because I’ve never had any clumps in my mixture. Just keep the heat low on the double boiler and keep whisking. If you do get clumps where the egg has cooked too quickly, make sure you filter it before canning.
At this point, it’s time to get the curd into prepared canning jars. Pour the mixture into clean half-pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. This recipe is only approved for canning in half pint jars.
Place the sealed jars in a water bath canner that’s been heated to 180 degrees. Turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil with the lemon curd jars inside the canner. It should take 25 to 30 minutes to bring the water to a boil, and this pre-heat time is important to the canning process. Once the water starts to boil, that’s when you can start the final timer. Process the jars for 15 minutes with the water boiling (in addition to 25-30 minutes with the water not yet boiling).
Once the canning time has elapsed, turn off the canner and allow the jars to sit for 5 more minutes before removing them. This extra step helps prevent siphoning from the temperature shock as the jars are removed. It’s important to keep the jars clean and make sure they seal properly.
Remove the jars and allow them to cool to room temperature before checking seals. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use immediately, or freeze the lemon curd and it’ll keep for a year.
While jams and jellies store easily for 12-18 months without issue, lemon curd is a bit different. It’s best to use the sealed jars within 3-4 months because after that point they’ll start to separate and discolor. Canning lemon curd allows you to preserve it long enough to give as an edible gift, but it won’t preserve it forever. Be sure the recipient knows not to lose the jar at the back of the pantry.
This recipe yields 3 or 4 half pint jars. If your eggs are on the smaller side, you may be a bit short for the 4th jar, so put that one in the fridge for immediate use rather than canning.
Canning Lemon Curd (or Lime Curd)
Lemon curd is easy to can at home in a simple water bath canner. It's perfect for edible holiday gifts. This recipe also works with lime curd.
- 7 egg yolks
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 1/2 cups sugar superfine works best
- 1/2 cup lemon zest fresh not dried
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cup butter cold cut into chunks
Prepare a water bath canner and bring it to 180 degrees. Hold it at that temperature (not boiling) while you prepare the lemon curd for canning.
Start water simmering in the bottom of a double boiler.
In the top bowl of the double boiler, off the heat, whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs. Add in the sugar and zest and whisk thoroughly. Finally, add in the lemon juice and chunks of cold butter.
Place the bowl on top of the double boiler and heat while whisking constantly. Once the mixture reaches 170 degrees, remove from heat and continue whisking for another 5 minutes while the mixture thickens.
Pour the lemon curd into prepared half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Center canning lids and seal to finger tight.
Place the jars in the water bath canner and slowly bring it up from 180 degrees to boiling. This should take 25 to 30 minutes. Boil the mixture for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat. Leave the jars in the canner for 5 more minutes before removing them.
Allow the jars to cool to room temperature before checking seals. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator or freezer. Sealed jars will keep for 3-4 months.
The recipe and process are the same for lime curd and key lime curd, with one difference. Reduce the total amount of zest from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup. Lime zest is a bit more intense and you don't need quite as much. Otherwise, just substitute lime juice for lemon juice and proceed with the recipe. Recipe yields 3-4 half pints.