I've been putting up canned goods for more than twenty years, but last weekend I tried my hand at my very first "curd." No, not cheese. That's an entirely different story for another time. What I made was a fruit curd, commonly used in Great Britain as an alternative to jams or jellies. Fruit curds have a custard-like texture, but are often smoother, especially when you use butter in the recipe, as I did. They also contain a higher concentration of juice and, in the case of lemon or lime, the zest, which gives a curd a far more intense flavor than most custards.
Curds can be used just like jams or jellies. They're great on toast and scones. But they can also be used as a pie or tart filling, stirred into a little plain Greek or regular yogurt, or eaten straight from the jar. (Oh, go ahead. I won't tell!). While there are certainly more steps to preparing a curd than go into the usual jam recipes, I found it quite easy to do and a really delicious change of pace.
You should note that canned curd won't hold up as long as jam or jelly, so be prepared to use these up within a 3 to 4 month period of time. They should be stored (as most canned goods) in a cool, dark place away from outside light. If you notice any browning or separation after your canned curd has been stored for awhile, that's an indicator of spoilage and they should be discarded immediately.
The recipe I'm sharing with you here is for a key lime curd. It's such a wonderful combination of sweet and tart - it tastes tropical and refreshing - like sunshine in a jar! To make this recipe, I used bottled key lime juice, both for ease and consistency of acid levels, but used regular limes for the zest, as I couldn't locate key limes in my market last week. I'm looking forward to trying this again using actual key lime zest to see if it makes a difference. Honestly, it's hard to imagine that this could be any more tasty, but one never knows.
Here's the recipe so you can try it yourself, along with some great photos thanks to my husband, Alex Rubin, and his amazing photography skills.
Key Lime Curd
Makes approximately eight (8) 4-ounce jars
1 cup bottled key lime juice (I can always find Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice at my local store)
Outer peel only (no white pith), from about 6 regular limes
2 1/2 cups superfine sugar (this is finer than granulated and makes a smoother curd)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 large whole eggs
7 large egg yolks
Prepare your jars, bands and lids. NOTE: Fruit curds can be negatively affected by high heat, so by the time your jarred curd is ready to go into the pot for processing, be certain the water temperature in your canning pot is not above 180°F.
|Lime zest processed with sugar|
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel from the six limes. Be careful not to get the white, bitter "pith" underneath and set aside.
Pour sugar into a food processor. Add the pieces of lime peel and pulse until the peel is grated finely and completely mixed with the sugar. Set aside.
Put just enough water in the bottom of a double-boiler so it doesn't touch the bottom of the double-boiler insert. Heat over medium heat to a low simmer, not a vigorous boil.
|Whisking in the sugar & zest|
|Adding the butter pieces|
Then add butter pieces.
Put the top pan of the double-boiler over the simmering water. Stir continuously with a silicone spatula or spoon until butter has melted completely and the mixture reaches 170°F.
|Straining the curd|
Run the curd through layered cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to remove the pieces of lime zest. These can be discarded.
Fill your jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
Process 15 minutes at sea level, 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
|Key lime curd, ready to eat!|