Make It Yourself: Butters & Curds

Agrarian, Canning & Preserving, Holidays, Make

To find out how to turn culinary projects into homemade holiday gifts, we turned to Karen Solomon, author of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It and most recently, Asian Pickles: Japan. As the titles of her cookbooks suggest, Solomon is an expert in food preservation and DIY kitchen techniques. Here, she’s provided a couple of her favorite recipes and best tips for gifting handcrafted foods to loved ones this holiday season. 


Jam can be a wonderful thing, but all too often beginning jam makers get sticky in a web of pectin and set points. Or worse still, they decide they’re going to make strawberry jam, which is actually one of the toughest to get right, and they are quickly daunted by ever trying to cook fruit again.


Well, my pretty, have I got a project for you. Apple Butter. It’s absofreakingdelicious. It’s sweet, lightly spiced, and, dare I say it, but the recipe is virtually foolproof, particularly as compared to jam. There is no guesswork, but there is a lot of knife work (made quicker if you have an apple peeler/slicer/corer). Unlike most apple butter recipes that boil the fruit, essentially reducing applesauce until it’s spreadable, I let the apples roast and take on a caramelized sweetness before giving them a smooth whirl in the food processor. Heavenly. And gift-ready? You know it.


And the lemon curd? A curd is an acidic take on a fruit butter but, unlike fruit butter, a curd actually has real dairy butter in it (please don’t shoot me for this tangle of definitions; I’m just the messenger). At the intersection of custard and fruit butter sits lemon curd. You may eat it on toast; you may eat it on a spoon. While not quite as forgiving as the apple butter – there is a trick to getting it smooth and creamy – its flavor is entirely addictive, and it’s a top-tier component for layering cakes, pies, toaster tarts, and more.


These two homemade jars go beautifully together, and of course they’re great for boxes and bows. You may never look at jam the same way again.


Lemon Curd


Time Commitment: 1 hour


Prep Ahead: You will need clean jars to store your bounty. Make sure they are free of rust and odors and the lids seal tightly. Prepare a label that lists the contents and date prepared.


6 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 cup sugar

11/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 12 lemons)

10 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Zest of 2 lemons, removed in large pieces with a vegetable peeler


Instructions: In a large saucepan, with a whisk, beat the eggs and egg yolk thoroughly, then whisk in the sugar and lemon juice. Stir together until thoroughly combined. The sugar should be completely integrated into the liquids, which will result in a much creamier curd.


Place the pot over medium heat and gently warm the mixture. After 3 minutes, add the butter and the zest pieces. Whisk constantly for 7 to 8 minutes, until the butter melts and the mixture becomes very thick.


Pour the curd into a clean glass jar and let it cool at room temperature, uncovered. Remove the zest and discard. Eat warm, or cover and refrigerate for about an hour. Makes about 2 cups.


How to Store It: Refrigerate, in a covered glass jar, up to 10 days.


Apple Butter


Time Commitment: 3 hours


Prep Ahead: You will need clean jars to store your bounty. Make sure they are free of rust and odors and the lids seal tightly. Prepare a label that lists the contents and date prepared.


8 pounds sweet apples

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup golden brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom


Instructions  Preheat the oven to 350°F.


Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Lightly oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Arrange the apple pieces in a single layer and bake them for 2 hours, or until brown and fragrant. After 1 hour, swap the positions of the 2 baking sheets and rotate each sheet 180 degrees, so the front apples are now at the back of the oven and vice versa.


In a food processor or blender, puree the fruit for about 4 minutes, or until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the lemon juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom, and puree again for 2 to 3 minutes more, until all the spices are incorporated and the texture is nearly puddinglike. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups.


How to Store It: Refrigerate, in a covered glass jar, up to 1 month.


Food and lifestyle writer Karen Solomon is the author of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It, Asian Pickles: Japan, and a contributor to Chow! San Francisco Bay Area. She also writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and is a former editor and columnist for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Her writing has appeared in Fine Cooking, Yoga Journal, Prevention, the SF Zagat Guide, and dozens of Bay Area and national publications. Visit

8 comments about “Make It Yourself: Butters & Curds

  1. Amber in Albuquerque

    OK to pressure can these recipes w/no adjustments? I’m new to the pressure canner, but would like to have a longer storage option.

  2. Beth

    Can both of these wonderful things be processed for longer shelf storage. I know apple butter can, but how bout the lemon curd please?

  3. Olivia Ware

    Hi Beth, yes you can process the lemon curd for longer storage, but it still doesn’t have the same shelf life as other preserves. It will last a couple of months after processing.

  4. Olivia Ware

    Amber, you should be fine using a pressure canner, but please see my note to Beth as well — curds do not have the same shelf life as other jams and such, even after processing.

  5. Healthy Coconut Lime-Curd Bars Recipe « WHOLE LIVING WEB MAGAZINE

  6. Homemade Apple Butter Recipe - The Gracious Wife

  7. 5 DIY Lemon Preserving Projects to Make at Home

  8. Try These 5 Lemon Preserving Projects at Home | Williams-Sonoma Taste

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *