Sunday, April 22, 2012

Key Lime Curd: A Tropical Treat

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
Off the stove, whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs together in the top pan of the double-boiler. Slowly whisk in the sugar and zest mixture until combined and smooth. Whisk in the lime juice.
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
Remove from the heat and place on top of a towel. Continue stirring gently until the mixture has thickened (about five minutes).

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!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Canning Labels Quick & Easy

I consider myself a fairly organized person. My preserving shelves in the basement are NOT in alphabetical order, but they are tidy, with neat little rows of matching items. Part of that organizational process includes labeling all the jars of goodies I prepare throughout the year. And since I give many of them away as gifts, it's especially important to me that the jars be labeled properly and with correct canning dates. It's also important to me that my jars look pretty and very clean.

So it always drove me crazy when those jar labels - the kind that are applied directly to the glass - didn't come off cleanly or completely. Worse yet, when
the family doesn't remove the label before running the jars through the
dishwasher, that label goo can be practically impossible to remove.

The remnants of an old label.
If this is something that bothers you, too, I'd like to introduce you to a great little website, A Lotta Labels is run by Rebecca Barnes and it's truly a treasure trove of labels and fabric toppers for use by home canners. Simply go to her site at, pick the size and designs you want, and before you know it, you'll be getting a packet-full of beautiful canning labels as the finishing touch to your home-made works of culinary art.

One of the things I like best about Rebecca's labels is that they are designed to fit perfectly on the TOP lid of your canning jars. Since those inner lids can't be reused anyway, they just get tossed out in the trash and there's no sticky label residue left on your reusable jars. Genius! Rebecca will even customize your labels with your name if you'd like. Happy canning!

My recent order of labels from A Lotta Labels.
Here's how they look on a jar!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Nice! A Blog Award for In A Jam

This whole blogging thing is still very new to me. So imagine my surprise when I saw that my little effort to share some of what I love about home preserving was recently given the Liebster Blog award. This particular award is especially nice because it carries with it a "pay it forward" element that continues the chain of recognition and kindness. Essentially, someone wonderful has taken the time to acknowledge my efforts with this blog, and acceptance of the award means that I now have the chance to recognize five other blogs that I find interesting. In addition, I get to share my selections with you here.

First things first; thanks so much to Pammy from Thyme Square Gardens, who bestowed this award on In a Jam. Pammy is an amazing organic gardener and shares her talent and creativity regularly on her own inspiring blog.

Next, the Liebster Blog "Official Rules:"

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.
4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they've been offered this award.

Finally, my five Liebster Blog awardees. I urge you all to check them out and support those who take the time to share their stories, knowledge, expertise, or even a laugh with everyone on the Net.

Adirondack Dog - Cheryl is a great lady who devotes much of her life to outreach and education on issues that affect the blind. She's also a driving force behind one of the Guiding Eyes puppy raising programs in Upstate New York. Her brand new blog and site follow her adventures with her faithful companion, King and will also soon be a great place to shop for unique dog items..

Help the World - Karen Flewelling is a truly inspirational soul. She works tirelessly to bring supplies, water, medical attention - whatever's needed - to parts of the world and people in need. Check out her blog where she shares news of her latest efforts and maybe you'll feel moved, as I did, to help.

Fig and Walnut - The young lady who writes this blog is clearly passionate about food, and that's all I really need to know. The photography is lovely, the recipes look amazing and she'll take you on a food voyage around the world. - In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have no idea how many followers this blog has, but whatever it is, there should be more. Drool-worthy photos and an ingredient searchable list of cocktail recipes should make this your first stop when planning a party, or a quiet evening for two.

Machine Embroidery Crafts - Finally, a shout out to a blog that focuses on another hobby I'm passionate about, machine embroidery. Barbara regularly posts pictures of her latest creations, gives some tips on how she made them and provides some resources for crafters, along with a link to her store if you want to buy any of the adorable items she makes.

Thanks again for the honor, Pammy!

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