Monday, April 27, 2009

Freezing Fresh Lemon Juice and Lime Juice: How and Why I Do It

fresh limesFrom time to time, readers write to me with cooking questions, which I do sheepishly try to answer, reminding them that I'm pretty much a self-taught cook, and might be breaking all kind of kitchen rules. One question that I've gotten more than once is "Can I use bottled lemon (or lime) juice in this recipe?" to which my answer is an emphatic "NO!" In my mind, the overly sour and artificial flavor of bottled lime or lemon juice is no substitute for the subtle, fresh, and slightly sour-citrus flavor of fresh lemon or lime juice.

However, keeping fresh lemons and limes around all the time can be problematic. Okay, if you live in Florida or California, or other warm parts of the world, you may be able to just quit reading now. But if you live in a place where fresh limes and lemons are not only hard to keep, but also very expensive at certain times of the year, then this freezing technique is for you. I manage to have a supply of almost-as-good-as fresh lemon and lime juice on hand at all times by stocking up on limes and lemons when they're on sale, squeezing the juice and storing it in the freezer. At first this seemed so obvious to me that I wondered if it was even blog-worthy, but after I shared the idea with a few different women who told me it was brilliant, I decided others might also like hearing about it.

I'm always on the lookout for a good deal on lemons or lime at the grocery store, but most of the year I buy those big bags at Costco, keep them in a basket on the counter, and then just before they're starting to go bad I have a juice-squeezing session. I cut the limes in half like the photo you see above, and use this citrus squeezer I got many years ago as a gift from my wonderful sister-in-law Lisa.

A funnel is your friend when you're doing this job, because you don't want to spill any of the precious juice, especially from limes which can sometimes be surprisingly not that juicy.

Unless they're quite small, I cut the lemons in quarters, not only so they fit in the citrus squeezer better, but also so I can squeeze out every drop of juice. I love the way this squeezer catches the seeds!

Once again, the funnel is your friend for this job. Even with a funnel, it looks like I spilled some of the precious lemon juice on my cutting board.

Here's your reward for about 10 minutes of squeezing, or maybe more if you have to squeeze by hand. Lime and lemon juice will keep in the freezer for several months.

To use the juice, I try to let it thaw naturally by removing the bottle from the freezer an hour or so before I need it for a recipe and just letting it sit on the counter. When that doesn't work out, you can thaw in the microwave on a low temperature. Be careful not to let the juice get too warm when you're thawing it or the flavor starts to break down. (Edit, thanks to Michelle who asked in the comments about glass bottles in the freezer, which reminded me to caution you not to put the bottle with the frozen juice under hot water to thaw, or the glass may crack.)

You can also measure out the amount of liquid one compartment of an ice cube tray holds, freeze the juice in that, and then pop out the cubes and store in a ziploc bag. This method is especially handy because you already know how much one cube is, so no need to measure!

Some Favorite Recipes with Fresh Lime Juice:
Turkey Lettuce Wrap Tacos
Cilantro-Lover's Perfect Guacamole
Avocado, Tomato, Edamame, and Red Onion Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
Roasted Butternut Squash with Lime and Rosemary
Black Bean and Pepper Salad with Cilantro and Lime
Black Bean and Tomatillo Soup with Lime and Cilantro
Chipotle-Lime Deviled Eggs
Turkey and Sweet Potato Soup with Black Beans and Lime
Summer Tomato Salad with Avocado, Tuna, Cilantro, and Lime
Vegan Tomato Salad with Cucumber, Avocado, Cilantro, and Lime

Some Favorite Recipes with Fresh Lemon Juice:
Pan-Fried Asparagus Tips with Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest
Middle Eastern Bean Salad with Parsley and Lemon
Chopped Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Mint, Feta, Lemon, and Thyme
Carrot and Parsley Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pecorino-Romano Cheese
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Lemon and Capers
Market Street Grill Creamy Cucumber Sauce for Fish
Very Greek Grilled Chicken
Middle Eastern Tomato Salad
counter customizable free hit

70 comments:

The Culinary Chase said...

Great idea Kayln! The artificial lemon & lime juices are awful & should be stricken from the grocery shelves! And, like you pointed out, when in season, there's lots & at a good price. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

nice! Minute Maid also makes frozen lemon (and I'm told lime, although I've never seen it) juice.

My sister has a lot of food allergies and she's able to use this pure juice.

jamie said...

I'm so doing this. I've been increasingly better about making/freezing stock, breakfast and lunch burritos, casseroles, etc. I need to do this though, and increase other non-ready to eat supplies in my freezer. I love my freezer - is that weird? :P

Kalyn said...

Hi Heather! I agree, those bottled juice are awful.

Anonymous, haven't seen the frozen juice to buy here, but will look for it and check the label.

Jamie, not weird at all! I love my freezer too. (Actually I have two freezers, maybe I'm the one who's weird!)

StuffCooksWant said...

Why didn't I think of this? Also have heard to freeze it in ice cube trays and then you have a nice small cube or you can use more than one if necessary. Thanks for the reminder.

Cyndi said...

I joined an organic produce buying club last month, and 2 weeks ago our share included 10 lemons - which are now in the freezer in the form of lemon juice cubes - made a dozen - and a bag of lemon zest. Next time you squeeze your lemons or limes, zest them first, then freeze the zest!

Right now I have a version of your Red Kale and Onion Savory Breakfast Squares in the oven - though I used regular green kale (it was in my share last week) and put it in silicone muffin cups so it's more portable. I'll let you know how I like it! I'm back to SBD'ing it - this is Day 1 of Phase 1 - so far so good. I'd lost 35 pounds these last 2 years, 11 in the last 5 months, but was eating the wrong things and my blood sugar was way too high. SBD will help.

Hope you're surviving the budget messes in your school district. It's a mess here in California.

Lisa said...

Hi everyone!

I'm the sister-in-law Lisa who gave Kalyn the lime squeezer! If anybody is interested, they can be purchased at any Mexican store. Also, if you're ever in Mexico, they are for sale at all the street markets for a few dollars. They are definitely worth the investment!!!!!!

Amy I. said...

Great idea, I'm definitely going to do this. Have you read the tip about microwaving a lemon for about 15 seconds before juicing it? It's supposed to double the juice and enhance the flavor. I haven't tried it yet so can't vouch for it personally, but I've read it from several reliable sources.

Kalyn said...

StuffCooksWant, do give it a try. I love having this in the freezer.

Hi Cyndi,
I have zested the lemons first, but I find I don't use nearly as much frozen zest as I do frozen lemon juice. Good luck on SB. I'm retiring, so maybe I'm getting away from the budget dilemmas.

Hi Lisa,
Now you know how much I love this squeezer. Thanks again for giving it to me. Use it all the time! Love ya!

Kalyn said...

Amy, we were writing our comments at the same time. I have tried the microwave trick when I let the lemons sit on the counter too long and they were getting dried out, and it did help. I haven't done it all that often though; probably just because I forget!

Cora @ Cora Cooks said...

Brilliant! I always want to buy those big bags of lemons, but I know they'll go bad before I can use all of them. I especially like the ice cube idea. Wonder if I have any ice cube trays . . .

Johanna said...

a great reminder as I forget about doing such things - and although I like the idea of freezing in ice cube containers - it has never occured to then store the iceblocks in a bag which would save room in my freezer - thanks!

Jen said...

I also love to freeze lemon and lime juice, but I have to admit to being lazy and putting the whole fruit into the freezer. I have separate bags for lemons and limes and have even tossed in a grapefruit or orange that somehow didn't get eaten in time. When it comes time for juicing I usually thaw them in the microwave. If you juice your lemons fresh, consider saving the rinds in the freezer and popping 1 or 2 halves into the cavity of a chicken or turkey when roasting. The flavor addition is very subtle.

jimmy said...

Kalyn - What do you think about freezing the whole lemon/lime, then thawing and juicing when you needed?

Kalyn said...

Cora, I'm thinking those big bags of lemons is what started me doing it, but I've been doing it so long now I'm not sure!

Johanna, my ice cube trays hold 1 T each if I don't fill them completely, which is handy. I admit though I usually forget to use the trays!

Jen, thanks for sharing that! I haven't tried freezing the whole lemons or limes, but I'll definitely do that next time I'm in a rush.

Jimmy, I haven't tried it, but see the comment from Jen above. (Love it when readers chime in like this.) Sounds like it works well!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Why the heck have I never thought to do this? I've always thought about buying those big bags of lemons and limes at Costco, but then remind myself that I'll never use them all in time. Now I can. Costco, here I come. Great tip!

Anonymous said...

Freezing is also a great idea for small amounts of leftover wine to be used in recipes - your potroast will thank you for it!

Kevin said...

Kalyn,
{sound of hand slapping forehead} Doh!
Now if I can just find some space in my overloaded freezer...

Anonymous said...

Want more juice from your limes and lemons? Put each in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm up. A warm lemon or lime yields quite a bit more juice!

Yvr Mike

Cafe Cyan said...

Great idea and I've never thought of it although I do store citrus zest in the freezer.

What a neat squeezer!

Michele said...

This is a fanstastic idea! I have one question though, is a glass bottle okay to put into the freezer? It won't crack?

jbugskitchenantics said...

Great idea & the ice cube trays work perfectly. I too have frozen citrus whole and it works great for when cooking pork for carnitas.I live in one of those sunny climates and believe me, when we've a surplus you've just got to find a way to keep the extras. Needless to say as well as freezing we've got marmalade,limoncello,preserved kumpquats and the list goes on...

Kalyn said...

Cookin' Canuck, you'll love having the fresh juice in the freezer, I promise!

Anonymous, I do freeze wine too, and you're right, it's a great thing to have a small bit of for a recipe.

Kevin, true! This is where it's nice to have two freezers.

Anonymous, another commenter also talked about that. I've done it a few times, but usually I forget.

Cafe Cyan, love that squeezer!

Michelle, never had a problem with glass in the freezer. Thanks for the reminder though, because that's why you shouldn't use hot water to defrost the juice. I'll add that to the post.

CJ said...

Don't forget to zest them and freeze that too.

from-
citrus lover CJ

Kalyn said...

Jbug, we were cross commenting! Great suggestions for other uses. Lucky you to have all that lovely juice!

Tamara said...

This is a project my 10-year-old and I do frequently to keep citrus bought on sale. The ice cube tray is the best idea yet because of portion control. We also use them (frozen in fun shapes from trays we got at IKEA) in drinks for a little zip.

Karina Allrich said...

This is a fabulous post, Kalyn. I have (too many times) lost a bag of limes because I waited too long to use them. Now I'll know enough to rescue the juice before it's too late.

Maris said...

Totally agree! I use Real Lemon to clean my microwave - I don't even think of it as edible!

Dazzlyn said...

In addition to nuking the fruit for a few seconds to help get out more juice; after that roll it around on the counter with the palm of your hand applying a little bit of pressure. that helps break down the tissue and you can get a little more juice.

Kalyn said...

CJ, others have mentioned that too, good idea.

Tamara, sounds fun! I'll look for the Ikea shapes.

Mark, glad you like the idea.

Karina, no more wasting limes. They're too precious to waste.

Dazzlyn, thanks for the tips.

Kalyn said...

I appreciate the interest in this topic. However I can't let people leave links for other types of lemon juice and lime juice products, even when they're well intended. If I start to allow that, my comments will be over-run with people leaving "advertising" links.

Kalyn said...

I keep missing people who are writing comments at the same time I am! Maris, agree 100%. I never buy it, but I bet it would make a good cleaner.

Cynthia said...

Even though I live in a warm climate all year round, I still squeeze and store lime and lemon juice because when it is not in season the prices are outrageous and then there are times when it's scarce. Barbados imports limes and lemons.

Hillary said...

Thanks for this tip! I agree with the first commenter that artificial lemon juice does not taste nearly as good!

katrina said...

Great ideam Kalyn - and your readers brought up a few I'd never heard of, like freezing them whole. I need to do this - I'm always leaving half-lemons in the fridge........

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Inspired! I like to freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays, then I bag and freeze the cubes. I use them for iced tea all year long, but I think you could also use them for something stronger...

FabFrugalFood said...

I am humbled.

I cannot believe I haven't been doing this! Believe me, I will start immediately! Like Lydia, I like the idea of freezing them in trays and then transferring them to ziplocs.

That squeezer DOES look great! I've found that I like my citrus reamer best, but if I had that gadget I'd definitely try it.

Rachael said...

While I totally agree that freezing fresh juice is best (and you can zest them first and freeze that too!) I also have to respectfully disagree about using bottled juice. If it is pure lemon juice there is really no noticeable difference, in my opinion! xoxo

Kalyn said...

Cynthia, would not have guessed that even in a warm climate, limes and lemons can be expensive.

Hilary, me too.

Katrina, don't waste those expensive lemons!

Lydia, love the idea of using the lemon "cubes" for iced tea!

FabFrugalFood, this changed my cooking life.

Rachael, I don't think I've seen the bottled juice that is pure lemon juice, so I'm talking about the ones that are artificial tasting. Will look for the pure lemon juice products, but haven't seen anything like that here.

liz said...

good idea! I've done this before, too so that I wouldn't waste any lemons before going out of town. good to know I'm not the only super-frugal person! The juice comes in handy since my husband really likes homemade hummus.

Donna@fabfrugalfood said...

Kalyn you are an inspiration, as always!

I have lately been using veggie stock a lot, but the purchased kinds vary so much from brand to brand that you never quite know what you are going to get.

Do you have a good recipe for veggie stock?

I'd love to make up a batch and freeze it!

Kalyn said...

I've been planning to try veggie stock, but haven't made it yet. I thought this post from Veggie Yum Yum looked like a good recipe.

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Wow, that is a very good idea and I love your lime squeezer!!!

Kim B said...

I followed the link to your recipe for turkey and sweet potato soup, and since I have butternut squash on hand I was wondering do you think I could sub the squash for the sweet potato? Thanks, love your blog and recipes.

Kalyn said...

Thanks Margo!

Kim, I do think you could sub butternut squash for the sweet potato. It might cook a bit more quickly though. Let me know how it turns out!

Sundry said...

Thanks for confirming the use of the lemon squeezer. I've had one in my kitchen since my mother-in-law passed away ten years ago, but I wasn't sure what it was for. Also like to see that you, too, use glass in the freezer. I have lots of 4 ounce baby food jars, which is a great size, because my parrot loves the toddler hot dogs.

Grace F. said...

What a great idea! I wonder if this would work for oranges as well. They are also a seasonal find (if you want sweet, juicy ones!)

Kalyn said...

Grace, can't think of any reason it wouldn't work for oranges too.

Erin Eats said...

I also buy the big bags of lemons at Costco, and I can generally use them up before they start to spoil, but you can imagine how much lemon juice goes into one's diet at that rate! I've always got fresh lemons, but this is such a brilliant idea for when you run out of fresh or for when they are so expensive it makes your head spin. I'm off to juice some lemons!

Soulknitting said...

::running and ducking:: I use a glass-bottled organic lemon juice from 'Santa Cruz' that is 'not from concentrate.' I am always adding to my drinking water and I find that it tastes fine. But for many things, fresh is always better.

Kalyn said...

Soulknitting, no problem! I just haven't found a good brand of bottled fresh juice here.

Tony said...

Great idea to freeze freshly squeezed juice. I live in South Florida, so getting fresh limes this time of year is not a problem for me, and fresh lime juice is great, and right now not too sour either. I agree the bottled juice is very sour by comparison.

I love to make an iced green tea and add the juice of a whole lime, no sugar needed. It's about as refreshing as you can get in my opinion.

Kalyn said...

Tony, I am LOVING the idea of iced green tea with lime. Going to try that right now.

saveur said...

I had never thought of this and I think it is a great idea!! :D

dolphin lady said...

I juice oranges and grapefruits and fill up plastic juice bottles and freeze them - fresh juice year around!! I usually get tons of free oranges and grapefruits, especially if I am willing to pick them, twice a year. Live in AZ where there is an abundance of citrus trees! Just got a box of lemons today, so thanks for the tips on freezing lemon juice. We use it to make lemonade, so smaller containers will be better. Or I may just throw the whole fruit in the freezer:-)

Kalyn said...

Dolphin Lady, lucky you to have all that fresh citrus juice. That must be lovely to have in the freezer.

Jenn Brigole said...

I knew you it! I was meant to find your blog to find brilliant tips such as freezing fresh juice. lol Seriously, thanks for posting this. Definitely a valuable idea. :)

murph1282 said...

Just found your lovely site while researching info about freezing fresh lime juice. I live in Orlando; last year planted a key lime (aka Mexican lime) tree that was small enough to fit in the my car's back seat. Miraculously it's 4 times the size now and has produced hundreds of delicious limes. Thought small, their flavor is intense with lots of juice. Thank you so much for your recipes & freezing tips which I'll include when I give them away to family & friends. Now there won't be any waste!

Kalyn said...

Murph, lucky you. I would love to have a lime tree! Glad it was useful for you.

LGVernon said...

If you have a favorite lemon meringue pie recipe, just use a muffin tin to freeze premeasured amounts of lemon juice for your recipe. Once the juice is frozen, invert the muffin tin on your counter, lay a hot cloth on top of it until the lemon juice 'muffins' fall out, then throw them all in a zippered plastic bag to freeze for use later.

Kalyn said...

Good idea to use a muffin tin to get a pre-measured amount! I do that with pesto but hadn't thought of it with lemon and lime juice.

Betsy said...

In trying to move to a more real/whole foods diet this post has come in handy. I used to buy the bottled "Real Lemon" brand of juice, primarily to put in my tea and for lemon water. I like the idea of using real squeezed lemon but the inconvenience of needing fresh lemons on hand was daunting. Now I'll be able to freeze it in the amounts I want, which will have the added benefit of cooling off my hot tea to a drinkable level quicker as I plop in a lemon ice cube. :)

Anonymous said...

The question is: how to freeze lemon juice. The problem is is that lemon juice does not freeze like ice. So, how do you do it without compromising a recipe. Any ideas?

Kalyn said...

I've been using frozen and thawed lemon and lime juice in recipes for many, many years and haven't ever felt it was a problem.

maxie said...

Just wanted to say that I don't want to see bottled lemon juice disappear from the grocery shelves. It's the best de-mineralizer for the toilet and shower!!

GaKaye said...

Instead of using a jar, how about a ziplock bag? That way, you can store it flat in your freezer, and it should be pretty easy to break off a chunk of the frozen juice to use in a recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but it makes sense to me!

Kalyn Denny said...

GaKaye, I like to be able to put the jar in the microwave and melt a little, but there is no reason you couldn't store it in a bag if you're not doing that.

Christine said...

Great post Kalyn! I've been freezing citrus juices in ice cube trays then putting them into ziplock freezer bags for years. Each ice cube compartment holds about 2 tablespoons of juice; good for when you want to thaw just a prescribed amount. I LOVE your citrus squeezer!!! :-)

Tami@NutmegNotebook said...

I freeze the juice from my Meyer Lemons from the back yard tree in ice cube trays and pop the frozen ones into freezer bags. The tree produces two crops of fruit a year and the juice lasts me from one crop to the next!

Kalyn Denny said...

Tami, lucky you to have a lemon tree!

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