Boiling Water Canning Lemon or Lime Curd

lemon curd in a white dish.
Lemon curd is a traditional British dessert topping. It is made from lemon or lime juice, egg white, egg yolk, butter, and sugar. It is similar to lemon custard, but traditionalists feel that curd has more lemon flavor than lemon custard. Made fresh it has a refrigerator shelf life of approx. 1 week. Canned, it can have a shelf life of approximately 3 to 4 months. If you don’t mind the darkening that occurs, it can have a shelf life of up to 1 year.

This recipe and process was developed and research tested by the University of Georgia, National Center for Home Food Preservation. There are four key ingredients to make this luscious dessert: sugar, eggs, butter, and lemon or lime. 

Citrus Juice and Zest 

 The lemon or lime juice is what makes this recipe safe for boiling water canning. Bottled lemon or lime juice is recommended, since it has a standardized amount of acid. Zest is used to intensify the fruit flavor. The zest can be omitted.

Sugar

Regular sugar is required for this recipe to provide sweetness and texture. Artificial sweeteners will not work. The University of Georgia researchers felt that superfine sucrose worked best, but regular sucrose will work. Do not use powdered sugar.

Butter

Butter provides the richness and creamy texture. Unsalted is called for, but salted will be okay. Margarine cannot be used.

Eggs

Both whole eggs and egg yolks are required. Follow the recipe exactly for best texture. If you use too many whole eggs, the egg white will cause foaming and the curd will end up foamy.

Equipment Required

This recipe requires a zester, whisk, double boiler, strainer, kitchen thermometer, mixing bowl, spatula, and equipment for boiling water canning.

Yield

 This recipe makes approximately 4 half pint jars.

Basic Recipe

  •  2 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup lemon or lime zest
  • 1 cup bottled lemon or lime juice
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 4 large whole eggs

General Procedure for Making Lemon Curd

  1. Wash four half-pint canning jars with warm, soapy water. Rinse well; keep hot until ready to fill. Prepare canning lids according to manufacturer's directions.
  2. Fill boiling water canner with enough water to cover the filled jars by 1 to 2 inches. Use a thermometer to preheat the water to 180°F by the time filled jars are ready to be added.

    Caution: Do not heat the water in the canner to more than 180°F before jars are added. If the water in the canner is too hot when jars are added, the process time will not be long enough. The time it takes for the canner to reach boiling after the jars are added is expected to be 25 to 30 minutes for this product. Process time starts after the water in the canner comes to a full boil over the tops of the jars.

  3. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl, stir to mix, and set aside about 30 minutes. Pre-measure the lemon juice and prepare the chilled butter pieces.
  4. Heat water in the bottom pan of the double boiler until it boils gently. The water should not boil vigorously or touch the bottom of the top double boiler pan or bowl in which the curd is to be cooked. Steam produced will be sufficient for the cooking process to occur.
  5. In the top of the double boiler, on the counter top or table, whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs together until thoroughly mixed. Slowly whisk in the sugar and zest, blending until well mixed and smooth. Blend in the lemon juice and then add the butter pieces to the mixture.
  6. Place the top of the double boiler over boiling water in the bottom pan. Stir gently but continuously with a silicone spatula or cooking spoon, to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F. Use a food thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  7. Remove the double boiler pan from the stove and place on a protected surface, such as a dish cloth or towel on the counter top. Continue to stir gently until the curd thickens (about 5 minutes). Strain curd through a mesh strainer into a glass or stainless steel bowl; discard collected zest.
  8. Fill hot strained curd into the clean, hot halfpint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.
  9. Process in the prepared boiling water canner according to the recommendations in below. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check for seals. 
Altitude Process Time
1 - 1,000 ft  15 minutes 
1,000 - 6,000 ft 20 minutes
6,000 ft  25 minutes

Alternatively, lemon or lime curd can be frozen in freezer safe containers for up to one year.  

Authors

Brian Nummer

Brian Nummer

Food Safety Specialist

NDFS Dept

Phone: (435) 797-2116
Office Location: NFS 321 / USU Campus

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