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Lime Juice in place of Lemon Juice when making Jam?

WildSwede Sep 27, 2007 07:38 AM

Does anyone know if there is a reason that Lime juice cannot be used in place of the Lemon juice in Jams? The reason I ask is that my farmer's market (at least the stall that my friend works in and gives me DEEP discounts at) does not currently have lemons, but has tons of limes. And lemons being $1 for 2 at the grocery store, I was wondering if they would indeed be interchangeable in this instance.
Also, I have read that bottled lemon juice is preferable to the fresh-squeezed by several jammers as the acidity level is more consistent. Is there any truth to this? What do you think? Thank you!

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  1. m
    MikeG RE: WildSwede Sep 27, 2007 08:52 AM

    "Does anyone know if there is a reason that Lime juice cannot be used in place of the Lemon juice in Jams?"

    For fruit jam - both high acid and heavily sugared - it really doesn't matter. In those cases, the lemon juice is for flavor, not preservative value. I think you'll find the lime is much more assertive/intrusive, but if you like the flavor, by all means.

    "Also, I have read that bottled lemon juice is preferable to the fresh-squeezed by several jammers as the acidity level is more consistent. Is there any truth to this?"

    Of course there is, the USDA may be a little over-cautious, but they don't just make stuff up out of whole cloth. But again, for high acid canning, the preservative value is neglible. For tomatoes, if you're following the more cautious contemporary guidelines, let alone anything that falls squarely into the "low acid" category, it's a whole 'nother ball of wax and you should follow recipes exactly.

    13 Replies
    1. re: MikeG
      pane RE: MikeG Sep 27, 2007 10:21 AM

      Lemon is not just for flavor, it holds the jam together when you are not using pectin. Lots of home and commercial jam-makers who do not use pectin rely on lemon for this purpose--June Taylor is one company that does not use pectin and frequently adds lemon. I do the same when making jam at home for my blog.

      I'm not sure if lemon and lime have the same level of whatever active ingredient (maybe there's pectin in the lemon?) works for this purpose, so I would be cautious.

      1. re: pane
        m
        MikeG RE: pane Sep 27, 2007 11:17 AM

        Citrus does contain pectin, but it's mostly in the pith (I think grapefruit actually has the most among the different citrus, but am not really sure.). Unless you can point me to specific data, I simply can't accept that a couple of tablespoons of lemon * juice * contains enough pectin to gel anything. (The acidification probably does promote jelling, however, which may be an issue depending on the type and degree of ripeness of the fruit in question.)

        Keep in mind that most fruit has a certain amount of pectin including fruits one wouldn't necessarily expect it in, particularly underripe fruit, which older recipes specifically mention should make up a portion of the fruit used for the jam. Since the advent of commercial pectins, that seems to be glossed over since naturally occuring pectin becomes irrelevant at that point..

        1. re: MikeG
          pane RE: MikeG Sep 27, 2007 01:25 PM

          Probably there is some sort of report somewhere, but I don't have time to dig it up.

          All I can offer is experience: I've been making jam at home every weekend for the last seven months as part of a project, I never use pectin, and using lemon juice for some fruits has yielded better results than no lemon juice. And June Taylor, who is my model of a modern jam-maker, uses no pectin, but frequently uses lemon juice.

          1. re: pane
            m
            MikeG RE: pane Sep 27, 2007 07:33 PM

            As I said, I have no doubt that acidification helps with some fruit, but I'd have to see data - on the pectin content of lemon juice - to come around to the idea that it's the pectin and not the acid. As genie says, jelling is not just about pectin, it's about what amounts to an almost idiosyncratic ration of acid:fruit:sugar. Some fruit has enough pectin, but not enough acid; some has enough acid but not pectin; some, though not much I think, has not enough of either.

            I've never personally used pectin ever, my mother used to occasionally, but it takes a fair amount of fiddling with itself to avoid a rubbery product, so it's really not any sort of end all be all. I may be off, but I've always assumed it was part of the whole post-WWII push to reduce labor in the home kitchen - and back then, people were much more likely to make jam to save money, and didn't mind a little rubberiness if it meant be able to whip out batch upon batch without worrying much about the specific condition of the fruit. (Recipes that use no added pectin should, as an example, call for at least some proportion of underripe fruit and note that overripe fruit should not be used at all - the pectin content decreases as it matures.)

            Since I only make a small batch or two of jam per summer - basically to save money myself since really good jam has gotten very expensive - and originally learned this stuff when I was a kid, so I'm not familiar with June Taylor. But if she's really model-worthy, I dare say she mentions the whole acid:pectin:sugar issue somewhere, apart from specifying the use of lemon juice in any given recipe.

            So in short, it certainly contributes to the jelling process, but again, I have serious trouble believing it's because of the pectin content of the juice, rather than the acid.

      2. re: MikeG
        g
        genie RE: MikeG Sep 27, 2007 03:35 PM

        No reason I can think of. Citric acid is citric acid, after all, whether from limes or lemons.
        OBTW: Jelly making is generally considered the most difficult area of cooking, as the acid: pectin: sugar ratios are pretty specific, and changing just one can cause a Real mess. But you are making jam, which is more a cook- it- down- and - it- will- thicken- up thing. The juice is added to goose up the flavor a bit. Try lime juice with blueberries.
        I would guess there's little diff bottled v. fresh. I mean, the bottlers aren't going to test, blend a little more acid, etc., like a winemaker. ..The acid ,BTW, is affected by heat, light, and oxidation, so if your bottle has been opened & out in the cabinet for a while it's probably lost some of its jolt.
        Figure you'll get less juice per lime than lemon, it might break even, cost- wise. And where do you get 2 lemons/ 1$? I jsut paid 79 cents for one!....(ECoast)

        1. re: genie
          m
          MikeG RE: genie Sep 27, 2007 07:48 PM

          "I would guess there's little diff bottled v. fresh. I mean, the bottlers aren't going to test, blend a little more acid, etc., like a winemaker. ..The acid ,BTW, is affected by heat, light, and oxidation, so if your bottle has been opened & out in the cabinet for a while it's probably lost some of its jolt."

          Actually, I imagine they're even more "anal" than winemakers, but then it's easier - machines can test and control acid content, no one -sadly - is worrying about the flavor of the stuff, that's for sure! And it is labelled with a minimum acid content (5%). But you're certainly right about old bottles and I'm pretty sure all of the USDA, ag extensions, and the Ball Blue book all specifically instruct to use a new bottle, at least per "season" for that reason. Though citric acid isn't very volatile, so if it's kept closed in the fridge, I imagine it'll stay acidic enough for a few months.

          1. re: MikeG
            WildSwede RE: MikeG Sep 28, 2007 09:17 AM

            Thank you all! I have been jamming for several years and since I get limes for free (they are the thinner-skinned variety which turn yellowish along with the green) and they give off a lot of juice (especially when placed in the microwave for about 15 seconds and then rolled on the counter before juicing).
            I am in Los Angeles. I have bought a couple of those lemon-shaped plastic bottles of lemon juice (99 cents) and definitely keep them in the fridge.
            I made a Fresh Fig & Strawberry Jam with the lime juice last weekend and it seemed to come out okay (no pectin). The next batch I make (Peach Lavender) this weekend will be done with the bottled lemon juice (until I can get them free again from the farmer's market!!). ;-)
            Thank you again!

            1. re: WildSwede
              w
              wawajb RE: WildSwede Sep 28, 2007 11:46 AM

              I actually have both of those flavors on my list of "jams to try", with Peach Lavender being slated for tomorrow. Out of curiosity...what recipe are you using?

              1. re: wawajb
                WildSwede RE: wawajb Sep 28, 2007 12:00 PM

                Both from the Small Batch Preserving book (my fave). I also just did a Peach Rosemary which is awesome (I think I found that one online). I have made the Peach Lavender before and people love it!

                1. re: WildSwede
                  w
                  wawajb RE: WildSwede Sep 28, 2007 12:24 PM

                  Yay! I suspected that might be the case when both flavors were something I copied out of that book. I've already made the spiced apple jelly (with crabapples) and that came out delicious, and the crabapple-plum jam, which is a tad sweet for my taste, but sorta complex and def. tasty. can you tell I have a crabapple tree in my neighborhood?

                  But I'm glad to have the thumbs up on the peach lavender before I give that a go. Any other favorites that you recommend from the book?

                  1. re: wawajb
                    WildSwede RE: wawajb Sep 28, 2007 02:50 PM

                    Australian Spiced Dried Fig Jam is the main favorite - always get requests for it. I made the Kiwi Strawberry (or was that Cranberry?) which was nice. Stay away from the pickled green beans - the recipe uses cider vinegar - nasty!! Ummm, Peach Lime - eh. Bluebarb was good. As was Blueberry Honey something (sorry, do not have book in front of me). Gingered Rhubarb Honey blah blah was also good. I will bring the book with me on Monday (I usually write in it how much it actually makes vs. what it says it makes along with any notes to myself). The apricot jam is good, but definitely cook it to the 25 minutes mark, no more - mine jelled so hard everyone had to put it in the microwave to soften it!
                    Also, a little tip, I always add 1/2 tsp unsalted butter to my jams - it really does an amazing job of reducing the foam!!

                    1. re: WildSwede
                      w
                      wawajb RE: WildSwede Oct 1, 2007 07:06 AM

                      thanks for the recomendations and the butter tip...the dried fig and blueberry honey are both on my list to try. In fact, those two may be the ones I am most excited about.

                      Have you made any of the chutneys?

                      1. re: wawajb
                        WildSwede RE: wawajb Oct 1, 2007 08:25 AM

                        You're welcome! This weekend I made a batch of the Autumn Jam (really good, but a very "angry" jam when cooking) and two of the Dried Fig. I have not tried any of the chutneys. However, I did do a Zucchini something something relish (great on hot dogs, burgers, with meat) - SO GOOD!! Surprisingly so.

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