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 tip for Freezing Fresh Lemon Juice and Lime Juice might be life-changing for you.
By freezing lemon and lime juice I manage to have a supply of almost-as-good-as fresh lemon and lime juice on hand at all times. 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.
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 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. (Edit 2015: I recently bought a Cuisinart Citrus Juicer and now I use that if I have a lot of fruit to juice, love it!)
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.
And here’s the 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!