From 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