Pressure Canning Grapefruit Curd

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are approaching the upcoming holiday season at warp speed. Today is December 1st which means in a blink of an eye Christmas trees will be going up in houses all around you, mall parking lots will be full at the crack of dawn til the end of the day and carols will play on the radio 24/7.

Love it or hate it, Christmas is coming!

And with the approaching holiday season, comes the fact that friends and family will be popping over for visits, bites to eat and festive drinks.

While I love to cook, I also love having some of the food prepared ahead of time. And what better way to be prepared than to have pre-made dessert just sitting in your pantry awaiting the arrival of planned or surprise guests.

Pressure Canned Grapefruit Curd


1 2/3 cups superfine sugar*

1/3 cup fresh grapefruit zest (generally takes 4-5 grapefruit. You want zest and not pith)

4 large eggs

8 large egg yolks

1 cup grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed and strained)

2/3 cup of chilled unsalted butter cubed

In a small bowl, combine the superfine sugar and zest (if you do not have superfine sugar, run granulated sugar through a mixer to reduce the size of the granules), stirring until well blended. Let stand for 30-45 minutes to allow the sugar to pick up the citrus flavor of the zest.

Fill the a medium saucepan about ¼ full of water. Over med-high heat bring the water to a gentle boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium metal bowl, gently beat the whole eggs and egg yolks. Gradually whisking in the sugar and the zest until well blended. Stir in the grapefruit juice and then add the butter.

Place a medium sized glass or metal bowl in the fridge to cool.

Place bowl over the pan of boiling water. Make sure the top pan sits well above the water so the curd will be cooked by the steam only, not the boiling water. Reduce the heat to keep the water from boiling too vigorously.

Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly with a flexible spoon or spatula. Stir gently or the curd will be filled with tiny air bubbles. Scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent scorching or curdling. Cook the mixture until it reaches a temperature between 168F and 170F (76C and 77C) about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the top pan or bowl from the double boiler and place it on a dish towel. Continue to stir the mixture until the curd thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon, about 5 minutes.

Remove the chilled bowl from the fridge. Place a fine meshed sieve over the bowl. Slowly pour the curd through the sieve and into the chilled bowl to strain the zest and any small lumps from the curd. Gently stir the curd to remove any trapped air bubbles. Don't be surprised if this part takes you between 5-10 minutes. If you want a nice, smooth and creamy curd it is well worth the time it takes.

Ladle the curd into hot jars, leaving 1/4” head space. Using a plastic knife, remove any trapped air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings.

Process 125 and 250ml jars for 10 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure in a weighted gauge pressure canner or 10 minutes at 11 pounds pressure in a dial gauge pressure canner. Yields 6-7 125ml jars.


How to avoid soggy pickles

My mother does not have a green thumb. Even she would admit it. I still remember vividly the first plant that I ever received as a gift when I was still a child and how she mercilessly overwatered it and then underwatered it and how with each passing day it wilted and shrunk until there was nothing left to do but to throw it out.

Over the years, I have watched her murder many plants. She doesn’t do it on purpose as I know she loves them…she simply doesn’t have the touch. This is not a criticism of my mother as she is one of the most talented women I know. She makes amazingly beautiful quilts, crochets tablecloths and bed spreads with some of the most complex patterns and she can cook a meal that will make your mouth water just in the memory of how good it tasted.  But gardening is not one of her skills.

So it will be no surprise when I tell you that I grew up having no personal experience or understanding of how, let’s say tomatoes or cucumbers grew. My aunt and my nona had an amazing garden. And I would spend my summers walking up and down the rows gorging on the fresh sweet peas and raspberries but not really contemplating how these plants produced their bounty.

Now with a garden of my own, which at times can be more weeds than vegetables due to my rather hectic life running two businesses, I have had what I consider the honour to learn more about where our food comes from and just how hard the people who grow it work to bring it to our tables.

When I first read the phrase ‘cut off the blossom end’ in a recipe for Dilly Pickles I had no context for what that could possibly mean. Now, if I were to read that phrase again for the first time having had the experience of growing cucumbers in my garden it would immediately make sense.

But for those of you who grew up in a city, with a plant murdering mother or just no where near where food grows, this is for you ;).

It all starts with the seed, which I get from my friend Laura at Cubits. I love supporting other local small businesses and on top of that, have always had a great success rate with her seeds. Once the plant begins to grow, it produces these lovely yellow flowers.

Cucumber flower

Cucumber flower

You will notice at the base of the flower a itty bitty cucumber will begin to grow pushing the flower further from the stem. These cucumbers are spiny and seem to have little thorns all over them.

Baby Cucumber begins to grow

Baby Cucumber begins to grow

With time, the flower drops off the end and the cucumber continues to grow. As it grows it becomes less thorny.

pickling cucumber

Now here is where we get to the part about how to avoid those soggy pickles that no one loves to eat. I hope that by showing you how a cucumber grows that it is more obvious which end is the blossom end. It is the end furthest from the stem that started out as that lovely yellow flower. But what does it look like?

Blossom end

Blossom end

The blossom end of the cucumber has a smaller circle in general than the stem end and can be slightly rough at the end. 

stem end

stem end

You can generally envision where the stem once attached to the cucumber when you look at it. There is the slight indent from where it was once attached to the plant.

So why do we need to cut off the blossom end if we want our pickles to stay nice and crunchy. Strangely enough, there are enzymes contained in the blossom end that can cause softening of the vegetable once pickled. General rule of thumb is to cut off 1/16" from the blossom end.

Some people also like to use distilled water to help their cucumbers stay nice and crunchy. And don't forget the fresher your cuc is the crisper it will be once pickled.

Can I reduce the sugar in this jam recipe?

Can I reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe?

It's a pretty common question in my preserving classes because a lot of people are interested in learning how to preserve BECAUSE they are interested in controlling the type of ingredients they are consuming. I love preserving for this very reason as well. I can preserve ripe organic Ontario peaches in August in a low sugar syrup and know that when I open that jar I am not consuming anything that I don't want to be eating.

So when a new preserver starts to look at a lot of jam and jelly recipes their initial reaction is to be shocked that they contain such high levels of sugar. But once you understand the role of sugar in preserving and what happens when you decide to reduce the sugar you can start to make educated decisions on when you want to reduce the sugar, substitute some of all of the sugar for honey, etc.

In this short video, I talk about the role of sugar in preserving and what you need to know about reducing it in recipes you find.

What is Pectin and why is it used in preserving?

Did you know that pectin is a water-soluble substance that is found in the tissues of all fruits and is a natural thickening and jelling agent.Different fruit have different amounts of pectin.

Under ripe fruit contains more pectin than ripe fruit but the flavor of under ripe fruit is not as suitable for jams and soft spreads. The amount of pectin in fresh fruit varies depending on the type and variety and freshness.

How it works...and this is where we get a little geeky ;)

When pectin molecules come in contact with fruit acid, chainlike structures in the pectin become charged and they begin to fold in on themselves. These folded chains trap water from the fruit or juice and form a gel. The introduction of sugar increases the strength of pectin, allowing it to trap more water and increasing its ability to jell. This is why it is important to use the right ration of fruit, pectin, sugar and acid. Too much sugar will result in too firm a set, too little and it will be runny. Jams made without added pectin must be cooked for longer period of time and end up thickening from the evaporation of the juice rather than from the process of jelling.

Excessive heat or high heat for an extended period of time during cooking will cause the pectin to break down and prevent jelling from occurring. If the length of boiling time is not controlled you may damage the pectin and end up with a runny jam.

Commercial Pectin is not evil

It comes in 2 forms; liquid or powdered. They are NOT interchangeable. Each requires a different balance of fruit, sugar, and acid to obtain the desired set. Powdered pectin is added to the fruit BEFORE cooking, while liquid pectin is added to the heated fruit and sugar mixture near the end of the cooking process.

Both forms are 100& natural and are derived from either tart apples or the white pith found under the colored peel of citrus fruits. The pith tends to have a sour flavor and it tends to be used in marmalades.

You can make your own pectin but be aware that you may have inconsistent results as you will be unable to control the concentration of pectin. Also, home made pectin has an extremely short life span and should be used within 24 hours.

I prefer to use store bought pectin to ensure consistent results when making jam.

Canning without pectin

When making jam or jelly without adding commercial pectin, at least ¼ of the fruit must be under ripe in order for it to set. But always remember, that this high proportion of under ripe fruit can change the flavor and texture of the final product. It must also be cooked for a longer period of time.

Happy canning!

Adventures in batching up a recipe

One of the reasons that everyone I know asks me questions like  “Do you ever sleep” is because I always seem to be doing something canning related when I get home from my full time job. But that very recently went into overdrive with an influx of store orders, Christmas gift basket requests and preparing my own Christmas gifts. And then it went into double overdrive when I took a sample of my cranberry sauce to my local butcher shop for them to try and they LOVED it and ordered 200 jars.

Now if you are at all familiar with preserving, you know that the average preserving recipe yields between 4-7 jars. So even if we leaned a little to the side of a higher yield and assumed we would get 6 jars per batch that would mean I needed to make 33 batches in a little over a week in order to meet this order. Suffering from the inability to clone myself, meant that I had to look at alternate solutions and that is when my butcher took me into the basement and introduced me to Jack, Jill and Sparky and a slow smile spread across my face and a small amount of fear entered my heart.

You see Jack, Jill and Sparky are tilting steam kettles and I have been dying to get my hands on one of these so I could begin to seriously start batching up my recipes.

This past Saturday, with 50lb of cranberries, over 20 bags of sugar, a carton of oranges and enough boxes of pectin that the cashier at Highland Farms looked at me with a curious expression on her face, I walked up to Jill and Sparky and began my first ever LARGE batch.

After consulting a preserver I met in Portland, I knew what had to be done and all that was left was doing it.

I am happy to report that this week I will delivering 180 jars to the Butcher Shop on Kingston Road. So if you are in the area – get them while they last!