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Jul 23, 2006 11:50 PM

Low calories lemonade--citric acid?

I know, I know this is anathemas to purists, but I need to replicate the tart taste of Crystal Light for the gallons I serve my kids during the summer, who definitely don't need the additional calories from sugar. The standard recipe is lemon juice, sugar substitute, H2O. But it's not tart enough, like the ersatz stuff. Any suggestions?

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  1. If it isn't tart enough, I'd think you want to increase the ratio of lemon juice to water. If you think the resulting product is too lemony, you could add some lime juice.

    1. I hate to admit this publicly, but to save money, not to mention elbow grease, I use RealLemon, or whatever it's called, in a bottle. This is embarrasing, but true. I thought if I added citric acid (and I don't even know where to buy this anymore--last time I used it it was to make stuffed cabbage and I can't remember why I did that either) it would make it more "lemony." Remember, I'm serving this to kids who think Kool Aid is good. Crystal Light contains citric acid, that's why I thought of it...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Runningmom

        You don't need to apologize. I've been singing the praises of Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice, also from a bottle, for a while on these boards. I get the occasional held-up nose on these boards, but frankly I know the stuff is very good. And sometimes, believe it or not, I don't have time to juice 10 limes (and I don't even have kids!). They also make lemon juice (see the link below), which you might want to try some time.

        There is a lot of citric acid in lemons and limes, and Crystal Light probably adds it to the mix to ensure the drink has enough acidity and to act as a preservative. I presume that Crystal light is a powder, and thus doesn't contain any actual lemon juice. Since you are using actual lemon juice (a.k.a. RealLemon Juice!), I think you could just add more of that to get the same effect.

        Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice and Lemon Juice:

        1. re: Darren72

          Darren do not pay any attention to the snobs about Nellie and Joes it is a quality product. I can get Floribbean brand and it is also excellent. No preservatives, no sugar (yeah I know sugar is a preservative) and is purely 100% key lime juice. There are masochists out there who hold themselves above us, but I just don't care. MAny of these are the same people who standy by the CI ratings of prepared stock eschewing Kitchen Basics which is a pure product. My only feelign about the CI rating is that the people at CI like the flavor of gums, thickeners, and preservatives.

      2. Saveur mag had a punch recipe a while back (last couple of issues, I think) that called for citric acid, with a source listed in the back of the issue. Can't find it right now, but maybe their website or the public library could help out.

        1. You can order citric acid online if you can't find it locally:

          You don't need much, as it really makes you pucker!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Non Cognomina

            Lots of groceries have citric acid in the Kosher foods section, sometimes labelled as "sour salt" (although if you look at the ingredients it hasn't got any salt in it!).

            1. re: Non Cognomina

              Middle Eastern groceries are another source for citric acid.

            2. Unsweetened Kool Aid's first ingredient is citric acid.

              A packet costs around quarter, and, combined with sweetener, makes a half gallon of beverage. It's pretty artificial tasting, but then again, so is crystal light. If you wanted to improve the taste, I'd do two things.

              1. Combine the kool aid with some fresh lemon juice (not canned).
              2. Use more than one sweetener. The amount of splenda required to sweeten lemonade is huge. When you get into that large amount, the metallic aftertaste becomes quite pronounced. If you combine the splenda with another sweetener, a phenomenon called 'synergy' occurs, giving you a boost in sweetness. This boost allows you to use much less overall sweetener, saving money and creating a better taste. This is what all the soda manufacturers do. A great combination is splenda and ace k (brand name sweet one). Sweet one has a pretty strong aftertaste but in small amounts it has a fantastic synergy with splenda. For every cup of splenda, use a packet of sweet one. You'll save a ton of money and create a far better quality of taste than using splenda alone.

              3 Replies
              1. re: scott123

                Interesting you should mention the combination of sweeteners...I just noticed the single-serving packets of kool aid in the supermarket the other day. In contrast to the tiny sachets of crystal light sweetened entirely with aspartame, the single-serving koolaid uses sugar and splenda (premeasured to flavor a liter or half liter of bottled water).

                1. re: scott123

                  The aftertaste of just one sweetener alone has always bothered me, so combining two is a really interesting suggestion. Also, I'll experiment with unsweetened KoolAid as well as different brands of bottled lemon juice. Plus the citric acid. Now I remember--it was to give the stuffed cabbage sauce a sweet/sour component. Thanks to all who have answered.

                  1. re: Runningmom

                    If you try two sweeteners and find you like it, give three a shot. Three is when the party really starts jumping.

                    I do a lot of sugar free baking and nutrasweet breaks down with heat, so I generally avoid it, but for something like lemonade, a splenda/nutrasweet/ace k combo would taste phenomenal. Just make sure the splenda is the lion's share.

                    The two sweeteners that I can't recommend, at least not at this time, are saccharin and stevia. No matter how little saccharin you use or what you combine it with, the aftertaste is still noticeable. Same thing with stevia. At some point, I think a purer, less bitter stevia will become available, but in the mean time, I've worked with all the major brands (sweatleaf, Now, soolite) and found them inferior to other sweeteners/sweetener combinations.

                    Beyond nutrasweet, 3 sweetener combining gets a little tricky. My third sweetener is erythritol. Erythritol is a non-laxating, extremely low calorie sugar alcohol. It's biggest drawback is it's cooling effect. Regular sugar has a cooling effect, but erythritol is far stronger/more pronounced. The cooling effect of the erythritol can be mitigated by using other ingredients, but that's a whole different discussion. The other drawback of erythritol is it's availability and price. It's expensive and almost impossible to find locally. But I love the stuff.