January 8, 2011

It’s January, and hardly the time for canning, right? The farmer’s markets are closed until Spring, the snow is sleepily falling. All those jars and pots and pans and lids have been tucked away since October.

Why is it, then, this week, I started to feel the itch again? Is it because we’ve been living out of the freezer and larder for awhile now? The boxes in the garage are filling up with empty jars. I worry. Is there enough? I think about what I’ll do differently this year.

I’m not alone. I’ve been getting emails. You’re thinking about canning, too.

Winter is a great time to think to plan. To dream. To make lists. To mark recipes.

Now is the perfect time to look over your own supplies, see what’s missing, check Craigslist, yard sales and Goodwill for canning equipment. It’s always after that first winter clean out of the basements/attics/garages across the land neglected boxes of jars and canners are abandoned. So here you go – a checklist.

Basic canning equipment:

Jar lifter
Magnetized lid lifter (not necessary, but useful)

4 c glass measuring cup
Candy Thermometer
Graniteware Canner

Preserving pan, non-reactive, at least 5 quarts, heavy bottomed – I like Le Creuset or Emile Henry or copper

Nice to have:
Large stock pot – 12 quart is nice – I found All Clad at an outlet store for about $100. The non-reactive stainless pan is useful for cooking tomatoes and salsas. It also serves as a sterilizing pot, a cook pot, and even a canner w/a DIY rack.
Pressure Canner– for canning sauces, stock, soups, salsa, tuna
Copper preserving pan

About those Ball Jars.

You’ll find so many sizes and shapes. Old ones with blue glass and zinc tops. Jars with metal clamps and rubber gaskets.  All of these are wonderful to have, and your pantry will be organized and lovely when you  fill these jars with lentils and flours and rice, but those pretty jars are not the safest for canning.

You want jars that will take a metal ring, either regular or wide mouth. Any jar that is not cracked, chipped or otherwise compromised, on which a metal ring can be tightened, is suitable for canning. At yard sales and junk stores, I most often find old boxes with eight or nine mismatched jars. Some of these finds are my favorite odd shaped, old fashioned jars that I resist giving away.

1 pint is very useful – chutney, soup, salsa, small whole fruits and vegetables, pickles, tomatoes.
1/2 pints are best for jam and jelly.
1/4 pints are very small
1 quart is best for pie filling, whole fruit and tomatoes.
1 gallon is great for storing cereal or pasta, and for infusions, but generally not useful for canning.

Itching to Preserve

Until the temperature rises and the markets are bursting with rhubarb, asparagus and berries, appreciate, preserve and revel in citrus. Just this week, I saw Cara Cara oranges, Minneolas, tangerines, Meyer lemons and pink grapefruit. It’s citrus season in the US – and while that’s not local eating, at least this food is US grown, not shipped from some faraway land. I realize I am rationalizing, but I really love citrus.

I went a little crazy. I brought home a huge bag of Cara-Cara’s. Another huge bag of Meyer lemons. And another huge bag of regular lemons.

Today, it was time to stretch my preserving chops. Not canning, per se, but some other tasty goodies. 10 cara cara oranges and 20 meyer lemons, some sugar, salt, eggs and butter, and some vodka. What could be bad about any of those ingredients?

In three hours this afternoon – Limoncello. Triple sec. Lemon Curd. Preserved Lemons.

And, a tart. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Start here. You’ll be so happy when you make your margarita or cosmos with homemade triple sec.


Triple Sec
Makes two quarts

10 oranges – I like cara cara – no seeds and a beautiful color
4 c sugar
1 c water
4 c vodka or grain alcohol

Rinse and dry two one quart jars.
With a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from 4 of the oranges, leaving behind as much of the white pith as possible. Divide the peel between the two jars.
Juice all the oranges. You should have about 2 cups of orange juice.
Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in the orange juice slowly, stirring all the while.
Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes.
Cool the sugar syrup completely. Then divide between the two jars. Divide the vodka between the two jars.
Cover the jars and place in a cool, dark spot for one month.
After one month, strain through cheesecloth and bottle.


I rolled up my sleeves to deal with the mountain of Meyer lemons. If you’ve never had a Meyer lemon, they are in season now and you really MUST try them. Floral, super sweet, juicy – these are lemons from heaven. I adore them and simply cannot walk by a display without buying some. Many. Lots.

I always make Limoncello with Meyer lemons. In about three months, I’ll have four quarts ready to enjoy (and tuck away for next Christmas!)

One of the by products of a batch of limoncello is a LOT of lemon juice. You will be zesting 15-20 lemons to make a gallon of liquor – and the recipe doesn’t call for the juice. I can’t bear to see anything go to waste – it’s that DIY Homesteading part of me – and four cups of juice – half frozen for lemonade, lemon pie, lemony cocktails…

And with the other two cups of juice, and three tablespoons of zest, butter and eggs, Meyer Lemon Curd.

I’ve tried canning lemon curd, but I’ve been unsatisfied with the results. It will keep in the refrigerator for quite a long time. One half-pint jar is the perfect amount for one 8×8 pan of lemon bars.

Today, I’m feeling particularly devilish, so I made a tart instead. Speculoos are all the talk on Twitter – a current favorite cookie – it’s showing up in many forms – cookies, spread and caramels. This is a food and flavor of the Gods. It’s somewhere between shortbread, animal crackers and browned butter. In other words, delicious.

It has not escaped my attention that I now have 12 egg whites in the freezer. I’m already planning a pavlova to serve with the very first strawberries of the season.


Speculoos Lemon Tart

Speculoos Crust
30 crushed Speculoos cookies, about 2 c.
2 oz unsalted butter, melted

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 c Meyer Lemon curd
1/2 c heavy cream, whipped

Garnish – grated chocolate or chopped candied Meyer lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350°
Crush the cookies in the blender (my preference) or the food processor.
Mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter.
Press this mixture into and up the sides of a 9″ round tart pan with removable bottom, or a 9″ pie plate
Freeze the crust for 20 minutes.
Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes until it feels dry to the touch. Remove to a rack a cool.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Spread a thin layer on the baked crust. Chill for one hour.

Remove the tart form.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold into the lemon curd. Spoon the filling into the tart pan.

Garnish. Either serve immediately or chill for no more than six hours (or the filling will start to weep.)


Update: Cocktail hour – Sidecar: 2 parts Cognac, 1 part last year’s Triple Sec (still have about 4 oz. left), and Meyer lemon juice. FTW.

44 Responses to “canning, preserving and a wintertime tart”

    • Cathy

      I’m sure the crust could be made with graham crackers or gingersnaps just as easily. The speculoos are so tasty, it would be worth tracking them down.

  1. Julia

    Nice work! I think right about now is when there’s been enough of a rest after harvest that canning seems plausible again. Just made jelly, myself. But this is a real treat. Love the triple sec!

  2. Candace

    Ooooh yum! These look great! I’ve had the itch to do some canning in the last few weeks, too…lemon curd sounds like a perfect place to start. Yum!

  3. Jayne

    You never cease to amaze- or delight! I love all these recipes! Excited that I can actually get those cookies here!

  4. katy

    Oh, I’ve got the itch to pull the canning pot out of the cupboard too! I think that the triple sec recipe might do. And I’m seriously considering making a batch of grapefruit marmalade.

  5. JodieMo

    I love the homemade Triple Sec! I am going to have to give that one a whirl. Me and Margaritas are like *this* in the summertime. Great post!!

  6. Warner aka ntsc

    I will be doing orange, lemon, lime, 4 fruit and pink grapefruit marmalades in the near future.

    I’m looking for key limes and blood oranges. I have Meyer lemon, tangerine and Clementine orange in stock.

    In winter I do citrus, which of course is not local to NY, but neither is a great deal, coffee, tea and hard liquor also all coming from someplace else (although NY now does have a distillery) as example.

    In season I do local fruits, I have plum, peach, raspberry, red currant, sour cherry, cranberry and probably a couple of others as preserves of some sort. There is also a fruit salad and apple sauces.

    I also pickle, but only do that every other year, this fall I will put up about 60 pounds of pickles.

    This all gets shared with the nieces and nephews, or at least the seven who live on the east coast. I do ask they bring the jars back, but sending them home with a case each when they visit seems to go over well.

    I don’t share the pressure canned stuff, but my wife does a couple of tomato sauces and vegetable cocktail in the fall, enough to last a year. I’ve tried canning soups, but freezing is easier.

    I also do stock, currently we have dark beef, veal, chicken, turkey, poultry, goose, lamb, pork, roast lobster, lobster and vegetable. I try and not do stock in the summer. We have done fish stock, but don’t have any at the moment.

    I use a 20 qt stockpot as the canner with a diy rack, the pressure canner takes 16 pints and I’m giving serious thought to a second as it is the bottle neck on pressure canning.

  7. Nicole

    I will have to give the Limoncello recipe a go. Right now my jars are tied up in the making of cranberry vodka… Once it infuses and is strained, it makes the *perfect* cosmo. 🙂 I have a pretty intense love affair with lemons and citrus and will be sure to take advantage of citrus being in season. Especially with alcohol being involved!

    • Cathy

      Oh my … cranberry vodka. Just happen to have cranberries. And vodka. Thank you for the inspiration!

      • Nicole

        I took 4 bags of cranberries, 3 cups of sugar (usually that has been sitting with used vanilla beans, but if you don’t have any, 6 tsp of good vanilla extract will do. Cook the cranberries down… when they have all more or less burst and are pretty soupy, transfer to jars. I usually fill the jars about 3/4 of the way with cranberries, and then just cover with vodka. Screw on your lids and let them sit. About half way through your week, add more vodka to re-cover your cranberries. At the end of your week, strain well and store in a jar. Or drink it all. 🙂 It makes an awesome cosmo. Thinking that I might try it with some homemade triple-sec when I get that made!

        • Cathy

          This may seem a little crazy, but my cranberry sauce is made up of one bag of cranberries and one cup of sugar. Seems I could just pour a bunch of vodka over whatever is leftover after Thanksgiving! LOL. Genius recipe. Thank you!

  8. Holly

    This list is so handy for a newbie like me. I know your class is five months away but I simply can’t wait to learn how to can. I’ll be working on getting the things I need to make it happen on my own once you impart your canning wisdom on me. 😉

  9. pillar rock

    My grandparents back in Iowa taught us how to can, but we never had Meyer lemons. They are in season now, so I’m very excited about that and now you’ve given me a new recipe for Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are hard to come by, so I buy them online and have them shipped direct from growers. We really love ’em.

    “Meyer Lemons are like love. Sometimes hard to find, but well worth the wait.”
    Carolyn Raises

  10. Julia

    So how long will egg whites last? I just tossed about 8, but maybe I didn’t need to? 🙁

    • Cathy

      I have kept them in the freezer for as long as 6 mo. If you don’t want to freeze them, if they are aged a couple of days, use them for macarons.

  11. Isabelle Johnson

    I can personally say that the tart was delicious. Which is not at all surprising. I mean, come on, it’s Mrs. Wheelbarrow!

    The crust was tasty but really it was the chocolate that was the coup de grace. Another not-surprise there too.

    • Cathy

      Thanks, Isabelle! Hope to see you at another class soon. (I served the tart at my class yesterday. A little snack to get us started.)

  12. Peter

    How long will the Limoncello and Triple Sec last on the counter? How would I preserve them to last longer on the counter (in the off chance they last longer than a few weeks):

    • Cathy

      My limoncello from last year is long gone, so I can’t be sure, but it seems to me that alcohol doesn’t go bad. As an example, last year’s Triple Sec was still delicious two days ago. If anyone else can chime in on this, please do!

  13. Kim

    I have been making Limoncello (and Arancello) for about three years. Occasionally a bottle gets tucked away semi forgotten. The alcohol is a great stabilizer—the three year old stuff is just as tasty, and a bit smoother, than this years issue. And no it doesn’t need refrigeration. Bravo! I, too, have canning fever, and I am making crystalized ginger to satisfy the itch in my kitchen. Thank you for such a beautiful website Cathy!

  14. Charlotte

    I am currently waiting form my limoncello to finish after starting it at the beginning of December. After zesting, with the lemons I made Lemon Vanilla Jam – yummy

  15. fishinthewater

    Mrs. Wheelbarrow: great meeting you at Future Harvest on Saturday! From one blogger to another, I have only read three posts so far and I’m already addicted. I tend toward the simple things in my own cooking/preserving, ie I’m not terribly creative, but I love reading about other people’s experiments. And who can say no to some good food porn?

    Looking forward to trying some of these recipes… !


  16. Dre

    Omg! I must try this triple sec recipe At Once! Just tried my first Cara Cara orange this week and they are divine! Officially ruined all other oranges for me.

  17. Melora

    Two rounds of cara cara triple sec in and we love it. Side cars modified to incorporate Pisco and it are our new house cocktail and so very very good.

    In the interest of reporting back, I found both times that I got a lot of extra juice (up to 2 cups). My three year old and I found this to be an added bonus, but if you’re buying organic citrus and want to save some pennies I think six oranges the size I had (standard navel) would do it.

    I absolutely love your blog – thrilled to have found it!

  18. Lisa

    I know I’m a little late to this party lol but I just finished making my first batch of Limoncello and also made Lemon Curd with all my zested lemons. I’ve discovered that Meyer lemons are not true lemons and their acidity is very low, too low to safely can with. I just canned 10 jars with regular lemons and it’s delicious!

  19. Kim

    It is a new year and I have come across this site through Pinterest. Love it. I have been wanting to try Limoncello ever since “Under the Tuscan Sun”, but have never given it the go. I will now. A few years ago for Christmas I made Orange-Cranberry Vodka for a friend who loves martinis and it was a big hit. You can find the recipe on Food Network website by Michael Chiarello. Thanks for brightening up this Alaskan’s cold winter.

  20. Paige

    Have assembled ingredients for my third batch of triple sec….the first batch is just ‘ripe’ my question is- what can I do with the peels… Hate to throw them out. Can I add to the next batch? Candy them?
    So glad I read thru the comments! Have to see if I can find a few more cranberries, some more vodka….or make a note for next year

    • Cathy

      I find the rinds have given their best by the time they come out of the booze bath… but if you figure out something to do with them, please report back!



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