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 of 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.
More Ways to Preserve Lemons?
Looking for more easy ways to preserve lemons? Read on…
- 20+ Ways to Preserve Lemons
- Canning Lemons (3 Ways)
- Lemon Wine
- Salt Preserved Lemons
- Natural Citrus Seed Pectin for Canning (From Lemon Seeds)
Can this be pressure canned instead?
Am a bit OCD so feel safer that way and long tine to heat anyway. I wanted to pressure can husk cherries but much shorter cook time.
There is no tested recipe for pressure canning lemon curd, and that said since there’s no tested recipe there’s no way to know 100% for sure if it’s safe to pressure can it. I’d think that the high temps would do strange things to the proteins in the eggs anyway. Assuming you’re below 1000 feet you shouldn’t have an issue with water bath canning, this is a tested recipe from the national center for food preservation (in the US).
If you wanted to attempt pressure canning lemon curd to satisfy your own curiosity, start the water in the bottom of the pressure canner at 180 degrees (rather than boiling like you normally would) so that the egg proteins don’t cook too fast and curdle. This slow initial heat stage is important and rushing it will affect the final product. As soon as you put the lemon curd in there at 180 degrees, seal it up, then bring the water up to a boil, vent the pressure canner like you normally would for 10 minutes to get the steam out (with a weighted gauge pressure canner). Add the pressure canner weight at the lowest setting (5 lbs). It should take about 15 minutes to get up to pressure, and at that point, I’d turn off the heat. It’ll take another 20-40 minutes to cool down, at which point it should have been at sterilization temperatures much longer than necessary.
This process should be totally overkill, and if you try to pressure can you’ll be cooking it much longer and hotter than the “safe” recipe. That said, just to be extra safe and cover all the bases, watch to make sure it takes 25-30 minutes to slowly bring the canner from 180 degrees to boiling, and then make sure it’s at boiling or hotter for at least 15 minutes.
Good luck, and as always, use your best judgment, and you’re responsible for your own safety during canning. My best guess is that pressure canned lemon curd will have a strange consistency, and there’s a small risk of breaking a jar trying to start a pressure canner at a lower than boiling temperature.
1/2 CUP lemon zest?
Yup, seems absurd I know.
How much does this recipe make?
The recipe yields 3-4 half pint jars. If your eggs are on the smaller side, you’ll end up a tad short for the 4th jar, and that one can be kept in the fridge for immediate use, or stored in the freezer instead of canning. Don’t can up that last jar if the headspace is too large.
Would it be safe to use a different lemon curd recipe if I used the canning technique you describe?
In theory, it could be, but there’s no way to be 100% sure since it’s not a tested recipe. For other recipes, I’d stick to storing them in the freezer to be on the safe side.
Can fresh lemon juice be used in this recipe?
The acidity of fresh lemon juice can vary from a pH of 2.0 all the way up to 2.8. Bottled lemon juice is standardized and is guaranteed to be acidic enough to make this safe for home canning. If you’re canning it, the safest bet is to use bottled lemon juice. For the freezer or fresh use, fresh lemon juice is great!
Can you use the same technique with smaller jars?
In theory that should work safety-wise, but I don’t know if it’d affect the quality. I haven’t tested it with other jar sizes. Bigger jars are no good since it may not heat enough in the center, but smaller jars should be just as safe for canning. The problem is, they may overcook, but I don’t know personally since I haven’t tried it.
I was wondering if it would be possible to make a pineapple, orange, or grapefruit curd using this recipe and canning them.
For now, the national center for food preservation has only tested and approved this recipe for lemons and limes. They’re some of the most acidic fruits, with a pH somewhere between 2 and 3. Pineapple juice is less acidic (pH 3.5), as are orange and grapefruit juice (pH 3.3 to 4.2). It’s possible that they’re still safe for canning at that pH, but I can’t say for sure, and they’re not tested. Given their higher pH I wouldn’t do it personally.
I have been thinking about making a cranberry curd for canning, since cranberries are pH 2.3 to 2.5. I may try it for myself, but since it’s not a tested recipe, there’s no way to know for sure it’s safe. The NCFP specifically warns against using any fruit besides lemon or lime when canning curds.
Has anyone tried adding strawberries to this recipe? We have made strawberry lemon curd just never have canned it and would like to try it…
I’ve never added other fruits to it and then canned it. Technically, that’s not approved by the National center for food preservation since they’re less acidic than lemons. Flavor-wise though, I’m sure strawberry juice in there would be fantastic, but I can’t say whether or not it’d be safe for canning. If you do try, I’d suggest adding some citric acid to increase the acidity of the strawberry juice.
Do adjustments need to be made to this re how if canning at altitude of 4000?
Good question! for 1000 to 6000 feet add 5 minutes to the canning time, and above 6000 feet add 10 minutes.
Can this recipe be doubled/tripled to make a bigger batch? Sometimes you can and can’t. Thank you! I can’t wait to try this out!
This recipe, in particular, I wouldn’t try doubling/tripling. If the egg overheats it can curdle, and I’d think a larger batch wouldn’t heat as evenly and might overcook in spots. That said, I haven’t tried it, mainly because my inclination is it wouldn’t turn out as good.
I doubled this and it turned out great. Also, I used fresh Myer lemon juice.
Do I have to use jarred lemon juice or can I use the juice from the lemons? The lemons I want to use are from a neighbor tree
The “approved” canning recipe uses jarred lemon juice because it’s a standard acidity. Personally, I use fresh lemons because if I’m going to pull off the zest then it seems a waste to then pull out canned lemon juice. There is some risk, however, that it’s not acidic enough, but it’s also possible that your juice is more acidic than canned juice. You just don’t know, and that’s the point. In theory, you could dissolve a small amount of citric acid granules into the juice to increase the acidity as an insurance policy.
In the end though, it comes down to your best judgment. By the book method is to use canned lemon juice to ensure a safe acid level. If you choose to do something else, there is more risk.
Hello, did your lemon curd ever have a metallic taste after you processed it using the boiling water method? It happened once when I used the two-piece Ball jar lid. Thanks!
I’ve had this happen very occasionally with my pickles (but not with lemon curd) and my best guess is that it had to do with a damaged ring. Not the canning lid itself that’s new, but an old damaged ring that somehow gave the contents of the jar a metalic taste during the canning process. Or at least that’s my best guess?
Interesting, I believe that may have been it. I’ve since switched to a different single piece lid and the metallic issue has not happened since.
Denise Sue Harvey
Do you think a blueberry butter and lemon curd mix could be canned successfully?
That sounds delicious, but honestly, I have no idea if it’s be safe for canning.
You mean 180 Fahrenheit right?
Yup! I’m not even sure how you’d get to 180 C in a home kitchen (without some really specialized autoclave equipment).
So delicious!! But next time I will strain out the zest. It really took away from the silky smoothness. I dont like the zest in it. Buy thr flavor!! Oh my word! Si with the time!
Thanks for the recipe! I love lemon curd. 25-30 minutes seems like a long time to get from 180 to boiling. Are you slowly increasing the temperature? Thanks!
Keep in mind that you are talking about a larger quantity of water in your water bath canner. The more water you have, the longer it takes to boil. According the the National Center for Home Food Preservation “A boiling-water canner loaded with filled jars requires about 20 to 30 minutes of heating before its water begins to boil.”
I made the lime curd and it was very good. I’m just wondering if you can cut back on the sugar?
You should be able to safely reduce the sugar in the recipe if you wish. The acidity in the recipe is what makes is safe to can.
If I was wanting to freeze the lemon curd then I do I still need to water bath it? It sounds like it is more stable in the freezer then the pantry and I need it to last about 6-8 months.
If you’re going to store it in the freezer, then you don’t need to water bath it. Know that it’s not shelf-stable, and it’ll need to be kept in the freezer until you need it (and then the refrigerator once defrosted/opened). Once opened and in the fridge, it’ll only keep a short time.
Would it be possible to use a replacement for sugar such as granulated Swerve?
That’s a good question, and I’m not sure the answer has been tested. In theory, I’d assume it’s fine, and this article seems to say that canning with swerve is totally fine: https://foodinjars.com/blog/canning-101-can-you-preserve-with-artificial-sweeteners/
That said, I honestly have no idea how switching out for swerve would impact the safety of the recipe.
What do you use lemon curd for , when you open the jar ?? Sounds good.
It’s often used for fillings in desserts, as a topping or layered in parfaits. There are also many recipes out there that incorporate lemon curd. A quick internet search should give you lots of options.
Any thoughts about omitting the butter? I’m dairy free but really want to make some lemon curd and use up some of my eggs.
I have seen other recipes on the internet for lemon curd made without butter. I would suggest researching some recipes and then either keeping it in the fridge or making sure that you find an approved recipe for canning.
Is lemon curd sealed jars last 3-4 months at room temperature or in the fridge
As long as it is sealed, it will last 3 to 4 months at room temperature. Once opened, they need to be kept in the fridge or freezer.
I am living at about 2300 feet elevation. In one of the comments, you said something about safety and being <1000 ft. Is the lemon curd safe for water bath canning at my elevation? Thank you!
I looked at the approved recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and according to their chart, lemon curd can be water bath canned above 1,000 feet. For 1,001 to 6,000 feet you just need to increase the processing time from 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Here is the direct link if you would like to check it out. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/lemon_curd.html
Do you use salted or unsalted butter in this recipe?
I would always assume unsalted unless the recipe specifies otherwise.
If the Lemon Curd is good for 3 – 4 months on the shelf, once you open it and put it in the refrigerator how long is the refrigerated curd good for?
It won’t keep for long in the fridge. I am going to guess maybe a week or two.
Could I safely substitute honey for sugar in this recipe? Thank you!
I’m not sure that I would recommend it since it hasn’t been tested with honey.
Recipe look’s delish! I’ve had the curd in my double broiler for more than 30 mins and it still isn’t at 170 degrees! Should it be taking this long!! Water is boiling nicely! How.much.longer 😫
It should have gotten up to temp within that time, especially if the water was boiling. Did you ever get it up to temp?