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Jul 4, 2008 12:40 PM

Bottled lemon juice

I'm wondering if anyone uses bottled lemon juice? I am certain that before I became such a freak about using only the freshest of ingredients, I did use bottled lemon juice. It has to be more than 25 years ago when I reached for the well known green bottle.

But I was thinking, I use tons of Chinese condiments that have a shelf life of well.. years.
So why not? Does anyone else use it or is it awful?

I'll go first. I bought a bottle about a week ago okay and it's staring at me. There has been a lot of chatter recently on CH about lemon pie which I dearly love, but today, lemon bars are sounding pretty darn good to me.
Any input?

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  1. I use it - but selectively. If the lemon flavour is the main one highlighted- I will squeeze real ones. But, like today, I was making my NE style cheesecake. It calls for some lemon juice just to add some tang to the cheese. I didn't think twice about using the bottled stuff. For lemon bars, I would use the real stuff.

    5 Replies
    1. re: maisonbistro

      So as an ingredient in a small amount where you don't particularly have lemon as the main ingredient, you use it.

      What about in a marinade would use it there?

      1. re: chef chicklet

        I would. It has an assertiveness that real citrus in my area doesn't always have.

        1. re: EWSflash

          I've taken to adding citric acid to several recipes which call for lemon juice because I find the lemons of today so weak.

      2. re: maisonbistro

        Agreed, maisonbistro. It depends on the purpose. If a recipe calls for a half-teaspoon of lemon juice to boost a flavor, it seems a shame to waste a whole lemon just to achieve that (unless I happen to be in the mood for fresh lemonade while I'm cooking). On the other hand, a recipe like lemon squares is additionally enhanced by lemon zest, which doesn't come from a bottle, so for those I'll buy actual lemons.

        Living alone and only trying to please myself, I'm not adverse to shortcuts like certain bottled and canned ingredients. So sure, I keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge. But now and then, for example if I'm taking food to a party, it's worth splurging on the finer ingredients.

        One thing about the bottled lemon juice that slightly alarms me, though (at least the store brand bottle I have on hand). It claims to be "lemon juice from concentrate", and yet the "nutrition facts" chart lists zero calories, zero anything. I'm not sure how that's possible. Not that that's stopped me from using it, of course. :-)

        1. re: weem

          I think any nutritional "value" would be on the order of 0.000x so I'm not surprised they round down to 0! No sugar, no fat, no protein... essentially no calories. It's basically water with citric acid and some fibre from any pulp.

      3. I wouldn't have it in my kitchen. I buy lemons whenever I can, juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. When frozen, I relocate them to plastic bags and store them in the freezer.

        8 Replies
        1. re: todao

          Freezing them doesn't add extra water and dilute the juice?
          Lemons are pretty pricey again, here anyway.

          1. re: chef chicklet

            huh? Freezing is juts a phase change from liquid to solid. You're not adding water to the thing and diluting it.

            1. re: bw2082

              oh I thought that ice crystal sometimes also form Sorry, thinking of ice cream.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                Please realize that when freezing ANYTHING the process of going from solid to liquid does not ADD water. Something may turn watery after being defrosted but that's a result of how the item froze and not additional water magically being created by the freezing process. Freezing does not create water.

                1. re: Rick

                  That's a topic for another thread rick! get going on it! Because some people do get icy stuff with ice cream???

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Chef, ice in ice cream would be a result of water in one the ingredients, i.e. milk and cream still contains water. If it's not being stirred well enough then that gives it a change for a large ice crystal to form, but the act of freezing itself did not add additional water/ice into the ice cream, water that was already present formed a crystal upon which another crystal built . . . and you end up with ice chunks.

                    If you take a pound of water, freeze it, then defrost it, you'll end up with a pound of water, freezing cannot add water to anything.

                    1. re: Rick

                      I haven't experienced any ice in my own preparations of ice cream, but I did read on another thread where a few people were having that issue. Great information thanks!

            2. re: chef chicklet

              Actually, because the freezer is such a dry environment, if anything it decreases (through evaporation) the amount of water in the frozen juice. (This would be imperceptible. Just adding to the Good Eats like discussion above.)

          2. Yes, I sometimes buy the Santa Cruz bottled juice. I drink it with water. But it won't win any taste tests when compared with the real thing!

            1 Reply
            1. re: erica

              i'm with erica - santa cruz organic is the only bottled lemon [or lime] juice i can stand, but i try to use fresh whenever possible. it's always just so much better!

            2. We sometimes take this stuff too seriously.
              Freshly squeezed lemon on fried fish fine!
              A teaspoon of bottled lemon or lime juice providing acid in a marinade,fine too.
              Let's not get ridiculous.
              Most can't tell lemon from lime in a sauce or marinade, much less if fresh or from concentrate.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mr jig

                I think I need to do a taste test. I was hoping to find that there are people that use it. I find that I can get a little too nutso when it comes to fresh ingredients.And unfortunately, I have let it stop me from making certain dishes before. I am sure that I have eaten lemon bars, loved them very much and someone's mom made them with bottled juice. I know my mother would not of used a fresh lemon for most things to bake or cook with. I only saw lemons on Friday evenings for our shrimp cocktails and then for the fish we had for dinner.

                1. re: chef chicklet

                  Well, I am not a snob when it comes to this. As I said, I use fresh where the lemon flavour is predominant (lemon poppy seed loaves, lemon square etc.. fish, lemon pasta etc) - but when only a bit is called for and is combined with other ingredients - I do not hesitate in the least to use bottled.

                  And to add to my rubeness, I also use bottled key lime juice when making key lime desserts. Key limes are so little and each individual one contains so little juice, I would go absolutely nutso bananas squeezing enough for a key lime pie or my famous key lime mousse cake.

                  I don't know why these "standards" exist. Use what you can. If it's between baking something you want and you only have bottled or not baking it at all, I say go for it. It's not like you're using spam or something to replace prime rib.

                  1. re: maisonbistro

                    Good point about the key limes. Not to mention when you spend a buck on a lemon and there is absoluely NO juice. That always make me so happy. Thanks for your insight, you're very helpful.

                    I have a very unpredictable lemon tree. I got plenty of lemons the year before, and last year, not too many. Good to know you can freeze the juice.

              2. I agree that there's too much snobbery regarding fresh vs. bottled/canned/frozen ingredients. Depending on the ingredient in question, sometimes the latter is just fine for certain applications, if not all around.


                I strongly disagree that this applies to lemon juice. I think the difference is substantial and I see no reason to use bottled. A leftover slice of lemon that's been sitting in the fridge for a week and a half tastes better than the bottled stuff. I think the bottled stuff is just vile.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Dmnkly

                  Well, I disagree with you. I will not pay over a dollar for one lemon (yes, here in Montreal, Canada - it is easy to pay that) which might or might not be juicy, for a tablespoon of lemon juice going into something where the lemon flavour is not predominant. I use lemon juice to sour milk when making my secret recipe banana loaf - I will not use a real lemon for that.

                  I don't know what bottled lemon juice you guys have in the states, but stuff I can get here is a very acceptable replacement. I don't know where the chemical taste comes from as there are no added ingredients to my lemon juice.

                  1. re: maisonbistro

                    I've never detected a chemical taste (I presume you're responding to torty, not me, when you mention that), but every bottled lemon juice I've ever tasted has had a really unpleasant acrid bite, and a very harsh, dirty lemon flavor rather than the clean, bright flavor you get with fresh. I don't discount the possibility that there are acceptable substitutes out there, but I've yet to taste one. And I'm not insensitive to cost issues (I frequently pay the same for lemons here in Baltimore -- which would be significantly more if you aren't converting $CAN to $US), but to me, the difference is substantial enough that it's one place I'm not willing to go with the cheaper option.

                    But there's no reason we have to agree :-)

                    Simple answer for anybody -- a few bucks on a bottle and a fresh lemon is a small investment for a simple taste test on a common item. If the difference doesn't bother you, great.

                    1. re: Dmnkly

                      The bottled lemon juice that I've tried in the past definitely has an odd taste to it, but I've not tried any bottled lemon juice for years, so there maybe better ones out there. But I'm quite happy using lemons - and, btw, I think the Canadian dollar is pretty much on par w/ the U.S. one these days.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        "and, btw, I think the Canadian dollar is pretty much on par w/ the U.S. one these days."

                        Yow... so it is!

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Yeah, but are your paying $1 for a lemon? There is transportation and import costs.

                      2. re: maisonbistro

                        This is such a funny thread, with great timing. We bought some organic, not from concentrate lemon juice just today to have in the fridge, just in case. My husband had to really convince me, and it was on sale, but it's true that many times I've gone to make something (recently, hummus) and didn't have any lemons so ended up not making it. I haven't tasted it yet, but will and can post back.

                        But the really funny thing is I made homemade strawberry lemonade for a dinner party two weeks ago. I ended up not having enough lemons so my husband ran to the store at 11:00 pm while I was squeezing lemons to get more. He came home with 12 lemons that he paid $0.99 for - EACH!!! I would never have paid that, no matter how desperate for lemons. $12.00 for lemons. OMG! It was so sweet of him to go, so I couldn't really say anything other than thank you, but I was shaking my head internally.

                        1. re: ScarletB

                          Alright, I tried it. It's Woodstock Farms organic not-from-concentrate 100% pure lemon juice, and it still tastes like crap. I really don't understand how it can taste so different from regular lemon juice, since that's all it is! I used it in strawberry jam making this morning, so for that I'm sure it's fine, but I'd have to be hard-pressed to use it in a dish where I might actually be able to taste it. Damn, what a bummer.

                          1. re: ScarletB

                            My husband did the exact same thing last summer! I think he bought 14 at a $1 a piece! He follows my lists to a 't', that's for sure! I've started writing things like "unless it's over $5" or whatever, in parentheses. :-)

                            I've never been happy with the taste of bottled lemon juice, but I've never played around with brands or anything. I can see using it in baked goods though- I really wouldn't think that would make a difference at all.

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              Priceless! I guess I need to start doing that. I'm definitely specific on brand/size, but haven't been on price, thinking it was kind of common sense, but apparently not. :)

                              1. re: Katie Nell

                                Too funny. Now Robin will say to me" let me know how much is too much to spend on it". I do the same thing now that you do Katie. " Only get it if it costs less than XX dollars. LOL.

                                I just paid 99 cents for 8 lemons( on clearance). I'm not sure why they were on clearance, they looked fine to me. Anyway, I'm not adverse to using a tsp or two of bottled stuff( in marinades, sauces, etc). But, I used the fresh lemons for lemon bars. I couldnt imagine using bottled stuff for that.

                                1. re: Calipoutine

                                  We ate the chicken marinated in the bottled lemon juice. I hate to admit it but the chicken was just feakin awesome!

                                  Don't even get me started about the salad. It was all soooo good.
                                  I'll have to finish the cake tomorrow, it got late and we ate so much bbq chicken and salad.... But I can tell, the cake is going to be stellar!

                            2. re: maisonbistro

                              Agreed- and i live in citrus country. At times of the year, lemons and limes are absurdly overpriced if there isn't any Mexican imported citrus to use, especially. Also, at times of inflated prices, I'm inclined to use ReaLemon to stop my avocados from browning. It's the citric acid that does it, and the plastic bottles have that in abundance.