Why do many posters keep posting to use bottled lemon juice? What is wrong with fresh squeezed lemons?
Yep, we try to always remember to specify bottled lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice is approved for use because it has a stabilized pH. Fresh lemon juice varies widely in pH.
Fresh are not acidic enough. Bottled is make to be sold with a strength strong enough for canning. It doesn't vary like fresh lemons.
The fresh just has such a lovely flavor to it. We used some bottled lemon juice in some jellies/jams but it does not have the same bright flavor. Very noticable to me, especially with the Pomona. Someone said (on this forum) they thought Pomona had a chalky flavor. I found that with fresh lemon juice it tastes just fine.
I realize that many fruits are already acidic, so bottled lemon isn't a huge problem - and for veggies (tomatoes specifically) I would choose to add citric acid.
So my next question: is all lemon juice the same and what about FROZEN lemon juice? I ask because Minute Maid frozen lemon juice (not lemonade) is pure and without additives. RealLemon has additives, even if so minutely it does not have to be labeled (as is current USDA standards for minute amounts of additives). Because of dietary restrictions I have to be careful.
I think you'll find that Minute Maid is frozen FRESH... therefore the acidity can vary greatly.
I was told a few years ago that ReaLemon is the only brand that has been tested and is produced to consistently deliver adequate acidity.
I like to use lime juice, but do not know if ReaLime has undergone testing.
ReaLime is OK to use in lieu of ReaLemon.
With jams and jellies fresh lemon juice is perfectly fine to use with the rare exception of some low-acid fruits. With a melon or fig jam, for instance, ReaLemon does offer the advantage of a consistent acidity. With berries, peaches, pears, apples, etc. etc. it really doesn't matter because the fruit is acid anyway.
RealLime has just the same additives in it as the lemon. I can see this is going to be a bit of a problem, I may need to opt to ask some questions of extension agents here who teach canning here then. Can I mix citric acid in with lemon juice..would that work OK? That would be my question.
If you're working with tomatoes, the following quote from the National Center ofr Preserved food should be informative NOTE: vinegar is another alternative:
"Acidification: To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes."
Some fruits do not need additional acid ... the following link will tell you which
girlgroupgirl - what is it you are trying to can? You only mention jams and jellies and tomatoes. As Carol said, added acid isn't an issue with most of them - many have no added acid any way. For tomatoes - just use citric acid.
So what other foods are we talking about?
I'm wondering the same thing.
Well, for one thing, I'm not quite sure what else I have access to canning. It's seasonal. Tomatoes for sure and I am planning on using citric acid for that (so easy).
This weekend I am putting up: peaches in syrup (I think we're good here though, with no extra acids)
Pickles: of course, will have vinegar so I'm covered
green tomato jam - this one would be a ??? the tomatoes are green so would they be more acidic (green-ness can affect pectin, but does it affect acidity???) This has vanilla and ginger.
I'm only planning on water bath canning for now so it will be only fruits unless the item was pickled. I have canned figs and I can't remember if I used fresh or bottled lemon juice. The figs with raspberries have hand squeezed lemons (but have that more acidic fruit).
The rest of the fruit was on the "very acidic" list and should be good with either the fresh lemon juice or nothing as per directions.
Thanks for your help!
Green tomato jam should not be an issue. Green tomatoes are more acid than ripe.
With figs it depends. Some recipes for figs call for lemon juice without specifying bottled. It really is a function of amount of lemon called for (i.e. Is there a greater amount of juice? Is there lemon peel as well as juice? Are there other acidic ingredients?) and even the level of sugar in the recipe.
So it does sound as if in your case the bases are covered. I have canned hundreds of different products and I can't remember when I last used bottled lemon. In most instances it either isn't necessary or there are alternatives.
The figs I canned (without raspberries) were not with any peels or anything at all, just figs, some sugar but not much.
I add very little sugar to recipes (because I use Pomona)- probably half sugar and then the rest sweetened to taste with liquid stevia. I love sweets, but just not as sweet as most people eat them!
just figs, some sugar but not much.
Figs are a low-acid fruit. Like tomatoes.
I was surprised yesterday to find a fancy, heirlom tomato sauce, recipe that called for bottled lemon juice. I was expecting it to call for fresh. But there was a note about needing to know the ph levels. They also noted that if you are using a mix of tomato colors, lean heavily to the red, because the oranges and yellows have lower acidity. It also talked about tomatoes from industrial farming are often lower in acid, because of hybrids and other methods of growing that have changed the original character of tomatoes. All done for shipping and shelf life.
Grow your own if you can !
Won't matter if you grow your own tomatoes if you are doing it for the ph level. You cannot insure they are high enough in acid since the soil, water, fertilizer, etc. all will determine part of the ph level. All tomatoes need bottled lemon juice or citric acid added to them.
Yes, figs are not safe to can unless acidified.
I would argue with that site that orange and yellow tomatoes are not necessarily lower in acid (i.e. higher pH). Typically they contain more sugar; the additional natural sweetness makes them seem less acid. It's an illusion.
As Linda Lou said, you can't really tell which are high acid and which are low. Some varieties, like JetStar, are known low acid but growing conditions, including amount of sunlight and heat and degree of ripeness, in addition to the factors she mentioned, all play into pH.
Does it matter what brand of bottled lemon juice is used? I like to use a brand that is organic.
Simple question from a simple person.lol How much bottled lemon juice if the recipe calls for the juice of 1 lemon? I'm getting ready to make Christine Ferbers peach preserves and I just don't remember...I should, but I don't.
this is a email from the manufacturers of ReaLemon
in 2007 followed by Reading Lady's explanation
"ReaLemon Acidity (as citric acid) 49-51 g/L
"Cadbury Schweppes has been making great brands that people love for more than 200 years. We are proud of our family of beverage and confectionery products and are committed to providing a wide range of choices for all individuals."
(a subsequent exchange with Cadbur prompted the info that the acidity for ReaLime is the same)
and the explanation by Carol from the same thread
"OK, we probably need a chemist here, but I'll give it a shot.
"There are approximately 1000 g/L in water, so the acidity is roughly 5%. However, that's misleading because citric acid is stronger than acetic acid (vinegar). So both are 5% solutions but not the same strength. That's why RL can be subbed for vinegar in canning but not the other way around.
"If you look at pH as an indicator of acidity, citric acid is 1.87 and acetic acid is 2.42. (The reason the pH of Realemon is higher is because in the juice other elements neutralize some of the acid.)
"So on the whole, it may be more helpful to remember that Linda Lou said RL is about 2x as strong as vinegar. (I hope I remembered that correctly.)
"Brix is a measure of the % of sugar. It's helpful in winemaking, jammaking, etc. When I worked in a cannery summers during college I measured Brix in fruit so that we could determine ripeness and how heavy a syrup to make. IIRC, in juices it refers to total soluble solids, which would be sugars and also acids. Doesn't make a bit of difference to us canners to know the level in Realemon, just an interesting fact.
"SO2 is just the amount of anti-oxidant (sulphur dioxide - probably contributes to th flavor.
"Acidity changes (lowers) as fruit ripens, but it should be stable in a product like Realemon. However, its life isn't indefinite and personally, I buy the smallest quantity possible as I use little. I don't carry opened bottles over from season to season. I actually had some Realemon mold in the refrigerator. (Shows how much I use it!)"
As Carol said above, with jams and jellies there is often a recipe call for fresh lemon and in that case fresh is fine. Peaches are already acidic. Most fruits are acidic (exceptions discussed above).
The requirement for "BOTTLED" lemon juice rule does not normally apply to acidic fruit preparations like jams and jelly.
ReaLemon is the tested brand. It is the recommended brand. Just as with off-brand vinegar having lower ratings, you can find many discussions here about the potential problems associated with "off" brands of lemon juice.
But if you can establish that the brand you want to use has the same pH and contains the same stabilizers in it to hold that pH then it is your choice to use it or not.
But I will say that IMO since we are talking about such a very small amount, such a miniscule proportion of the recipe, I honestly can't see that using anything other than the recommended brand is justified.
Well, I'm going with 1/4 Cup bottled Realemon.
I'm not sure that the notion that you cannot substitute real lemon juice for bottled is correct. This certainly is the prevailing generally accepted wisdom here at GW (and elsewhere), but like many others, I HATE the idea of using the bottled stuff, so I did a little digging.
The idea that you can only use bottled juice seems to stem from the desire to have a standardized or guaranteed level of acidity, as opposed to real lemon juice, which will vary from lemon to lemon like any other unprocessed, natural product. The question posed by the OP has been asked many, many times, and the answer always seems to be something along the lines of "Because we said so." No facts, no science, just use bottled juice and be safe. This ultra conservative, better-safe-than-sorry approach just doesn't compute with me.
I can the summer bounty not only to enjoy the taste of these fresh fruits and veggies in the cold, Chicago winter, but also so that I know exactly what is in the food in my pantry. Unfortunately, the bottled stuff also contains sodium benzoate, sodium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite. These chemicals aren't exactly among my first choice ingredients.
So, I talked to a friend in the fruit concentrate business. He claims to be absolutely certain that a real lemon will always contain more citric acid by volume than the bottled stuff. This is someone that I trust, so I'm pretty comfortable going on his info, but I poked around for some more and found the article linked below.
The article confirms (at least for the lemons used for the study) my friends assertion. Real lemons, though certainly not standardized (and perhaps not absolutely, positively, verifiably) contain more citric acid than Realemon.
So, the equation goes like this: Acidity of real lemon juice > acidity of Realemon = safe to substitute in canning recipes.
Am I missing anything here?
Here is a link that might be useful: Quantitative Assessment of Citric Acid in Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Commercially-Available Fruit Juice Products
First, it isn't "because we say so". It is because the food scientists at the USDA testing labs say so. Big difference. ;) And yes they do have scientific testing to support the recommendation and much of it is published at NCHFP's website.
Now Whether you grant credence to them or not is up to you. ;)
Second, even if your friend's claim (that fresh lemons have more citric acid in them) is true, and the USDA testing would at least appear to dispute that, the other factor is the stabilizing additives in the bottled juice. Fresh lemons don't have those stabilizers.
Since USDA research also shows that natural acidity in any food not only varies depending on soil and growing conditions AND that it declines during shelf storage - that pH rises - then that stabilizing effect of the bottled juice is even more important.
Obviously using fresh lemons is preferable to using NO lemon juice but bottled lemon juice with its concentrated acidity and stabilizers is recommended over fresh.
Third, I always come back to the question that plagues me most with this issue - why is it that folks find using processed and stabilized vinegar acceptable when called for but then balk at using processed and stabilized lemon juice?
But if none of the arguments in favor of bottled lemon juice convince you, just use citric acid.
I read the study. The problem I have is that your friend's claim that a real lemon always contains more citric acid is scientifically unsupportable. You would have to allow for all varieties of lemons, including doubtful varietals like Meyer, all degrees of ripeness and all storage conditions which influence retention or degradation of micro-elements. I don't know how that supposition is even verifiable. Certainly not on the word of a single individual. (Speaking of because I said so)
Because we said so is frankly an insult. There have been numerous in-depth discussions of this issue which a careful search of the forum should reveal, including correspondence with the manufacturer regarding its specifications for ReaLemon. We just get tired of re-visiting the issue time and time again because readers draw erroneous conclusions based upon a single thread.
We are not mindless drones mouthing a company line. Nor is the NCHFP a shill for manufacturers of bottled lemon juice. To accept your conclusion would require the assumption that somehow the NCHFP researchers have a reason to falsify or lie.
They recommend bottled lemon juice because their lab tests have shown consistent reliable results in the product. There are so many variables in what home canners do anyway that they try wherever possible to standardize. Relative strength is not really the issue. Reproducible results are.
The nice thing about home food preservation is each preserver has 100% latitude to make choices about the degree to which he or she chooses to adhere to current recommendations.
We don't make our recommendations mindlessly. It's just the opposite. We are exceedingly mindful of all the ways canning can go wrong and are unwilling to take on the responsibility of encouraging canning practices which carry an element of risk.
Thank you for your quick responses. I certainly did not mean to insult. This must be an area that is a bit sore when probed. You've been through it again and again I suppose. Sorry about that.
Anyway, your responses are helpful. They go a fair way toward confirming my suspicion that the best reason to use the bottled stuff is in furtherance of an abundance of caution. There is some science at work here, and I respect that. Lemons vary. Realemon does not. That consistency, reproducibility, and standardization makes it far more suitable for a lab. I was just wondering if there was a piece of this puzzle that I am missing.
readinglady said: "To accept your conclusion would require the assumption that somehow the NCHFP researchers have a reason to falsify or lie."
I disagree. My conclusion simply requires an understanding of how lawyers and other governmental employees take steps to protect their clients and agencies from liability. Even if 99.44% of fresh lemons are safe to use for this purpose, 100% of bottles of Realemon is preferable and therefore recommended. Classic CYA.
Again, I did not mean to insult or offend. I simply wanted some insight behind why USDA or NCHFP say so. I've never been one to follow rules without asking why those rules exist. Once I understand the facts or logic behind the rule, I decide what is best for me and my family.
Thanks for your help,
Excellent post Carol. Kudos!!
a bit sore when probed.
No, just tedious and pointless. Those who oppose, resent, ______ (insert verb of choice), the use of bottled lemon juice insist on incessantly "probing" the issue with us, and often do so in a critical manner.
We are just the messenger, not the source. Take it up with the source. Barring that, do as you wish. It is your risk to take.
I'm going to pass along some wisdom I picked up from ksrogers and recommend that you try Nellie and Joe's lemon and lime juice. I think it has a nicer flavor than Realemon/lime. My Stop & Shop carries it here in Rhode Island right next to the big green bottles. Give it a shot.
I sorta miss Ken, cranky rants and all.
It looks like I picked up Ken's "cranky rants" banner, LOL.
I worked in a cannery when I was in college. When you're sourcing fruit, determining standards in the field, grading, testing in the lab, it's easy to arrive at consistency. Lemons by the boxcar tend to average out and I certainly can see that for commercial applications a ton of lemons is consistently more acidic than an equivalent amount of bottled.
But the home canner uses only one or two or three lemons, which individually may be lower in acidity. Who can know?
There is just no way to account for all the things which may happen with a canning formula in the home kitchen. You make applesauce and use windfalls, which are less acid than apples picked from the tree, not even imagining it's an issue.
Inexperienced canners, especially, are prone to doing the unimaginable. I can say as a teacher, I can't count the ways the human mind can re-configure the most basic of instructions.
I told a friend how to can tomatoes, believing I'd covered every possible way for it to go wrong, only to discover he'd decided water up to the level of the fruit in the jar was sufficient for a boiling water bath. Fortunately, my husband happened to go down the street to visit, spotted the error and insisted he re-process the batch.
Sorry if I came across as hostile. Canning fatigue. Like farmers, glad to see the end of harvest.
Hah. I just skimmed over the last several months of Harvest threads and I now understand what I stepped in.
Please excuse the incessantness. I shouldn't have just jumped in without looking into the over and over again nature of this issue.
Battle lines have been drawn. You fall on one side or the other. Can you follow the rules, or can't you?
You GW folks have been quite helpful (and relatively patient, considering) and there is a wealth of information in these threads.
Dave's comment about stabilizers got me wondering. I read somewhere once that you need to be careful with long-simmer chutneys, etc. because a long exposure to heat can break down the acetic acid and reduce the overall acidity of your mixture. Would stabilizers in lemon juice, vinegar etc. help to remedy that problem?
You get a pass on this one, LOL, because the old thread is difficult to locate.
There was a previous question: What happens to vinegar when it's reduced by boiling?
Dave: Acidity becomes more concentrated as the water is boiled off and the specific gravity of the brine increases. Same in reverse - acidity (pH) can become diluted as water leaches or osmoses out of the foods into a brine.
Me: Acetic acid has a higher boiling point than water - 236Ã¯Â¿Â½ vs. 212Ã¯Â¿Â½. Because the acetic acid fumes are intense, the odor of heated brine gives the impression that it's mainly the acid that's dissipating. However, as Dave said, it's mainly water.
Thanks for your understanding Leo. :)
Lisapat - what Carol said. ;)
Stabilized vinegar? I was always under the impression that vinegar was dilute aqueous acetic acid. Nothing more, nothing less.
What do they stabilize vinegar with? I'd like to avoid extra additives and chemicals if I can. But I'm ok with certain chemicals if I know what they are, how much there is of it, and its safety history.
Thanks a bunch,
Dave can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the reference to stabilizers had to do with bottled lemon juice not vinegar. Citric acid will degrade under storage conditions (or even cutting a fresh lemon and letting it sit on the counter a half hour); hence the stabilizers.
I don't care for bottled lemon juice myself. That doesn't mean I don't use it, but I avoid it when possible. So for tomatoes I prefer citric acid. For sweet preserves I use fresh juice as they're acid products anyway and fresh works just fine. I would never can the NCHFP lemon curd, or even make it, because I think lemon curd with bottled juice is a travesty.
The point is that except for a very few instances, depending upon the recipes one chooses to can, bottled lemon juice isn't required that frequently. For me it's largely a non-issue.
Thanks for the info.
Actually you can use real lemons as long as they are Eurekas and not Meyers.
Finally science steps in. I will never again use bottled lemon juice! Hip Hip Hooray!
There is a separate discussion here about this article and some of the questions it raises still remain unanswered.
Here is a link that might be useful: Recent discussion about this article