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Lemon Juice

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Hi Everybody,


Before my computer went down a couple of weeks ago, I read several boards on which people talked about having trouble finding lemon juice. In most cases, some other reader replied that was probably because everybody was buying it for canning season.


That got me to thinking. With all the droughts or other things that may happen, it might be a good idea to have extra bottles of lemon juice in the pantry. Does anyone know the shelf life of lemon juice? I found some at Dollar Tree and had enough to buy a couple of bottles. I froze one of them.


Thanks in advance



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It will get old and brownish then taste odd. I haven't tried freezing it. For canning I keep powdered ascorbic acid. It is good for yrs if kept sealed. I get it bulk and take a little out to put in a small container so I'm not opening the large one frequently.

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You want citric acid in place of bottled lemon juice for canning. Ascorbic acid is good to have, too, but won't keep botulism at bay in canning. It will only keep things from turning brown.


You can get citric acid crystals at most wine making shops.

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I've used both, citric acid and lemon juice (and once even used lemon-lime soda pop). I've had lemon juice in my frig for a long time (longer than I'd like to admit) and it's stayed just fine. The large ones in my pantry haven't been opened. I plan to pour some into ice cube trays to freeze...just for fun. When I dehydrate lemons I save the ends, freeze them, and then use them as "ice cubes" for citrus water. The friends around here probably have tons more experience than myself, but putting in my 2 cents worth! :ashamed0002:

Edited by Philbe
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You want citric acid in place of bottled lemon juice for canning. Ascorbic acid is good to have, too, but won't keep botulism at bay in canning. It will only keep things from turning brown.


You can get citric acid crystals at most wine making shops.


Being of a curious nature, I would like to know the reason you cannot use ascorbic acid to prevent botulism. All I can find is the usual "don't use it" but nobody gives a reason.

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From Elizabeth Andress, who wrote the USDA guides and works at the Univ. of Georgia :



From: Elizabeth Andress


"Why can't we substitute ascorbic acid (vitamin C) for citric acid (sour

salt) or lemon juice for acidifying canned goods? And if it is possible,

what is the substitution rate?"



The quick answer is that it cannot be substituted because there are no

established levels to provide the proper pH control in the canned foods

where we have it required to assure safe boiling water processing instead of

pressure processing.


Ascorbic acid is not as efficient of an acidifier for the needed purposes

(decreasing the pH of the food tissue). It is more expensive (in pure form)

and the economics would then be compounded by needing to use more. For

acidifying tomatoes, for example, the researchers worked out citric acid,

lemon juice and vinegar options, but did not determine an acidification

amount for ascorbic acid. There is no general conversion factor; different

amounts would have to be tested in the actual food to be acidified. Foods

contain natural components that can cause buffering with different acids in

solution, and thereby prevent desired pH changes until a threshold is



I was not in the profession when the tomato acidification studies were done,

but there could have also been some decision-making related to the fact that

pure ascorbic acid was not very available to consumers so it was not

considered. Three acidulants that were known to be effective food acidifiers

and available to consumers were used. It is my understanding, however, that

the reasoning has mostly to do with the fact that it is (and was) known that

ascorbic acid is not known to be an effective acidifier in the foods being

studied, fairly large amounts would be needed and there is a substantial

cost difference compared to the chosen compounds.


Citric acid is by far the most preferred and commonly used acidulant in the

food processing and food canning industry.


(And on the other hand, for many foods, ascorbic acid is a more effective

anti-darkening agent than citric acid.)




Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D.

Project Director, National Center for HFP

Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist

Department of Foods and Nutrition

The University of Georgia

208 Hoke Smith Annex

Athens, GA 30602-4356

Phone: (706) 542-3773

FAX: (706) 542-1979





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Violet, wierd question....can you use white vinegar in place of lemon juice for canning? Vinegar won't go bad like lemon juice will....but I am wondering if it would be a suitable substitute, or if it would just change the flavor too much (or not meet the requirements for acidity).

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If you are pressure canning tomatoes, you still need the bottled lemon juice or citric acid added to them.


No, you cannot substitute vinegar when bottled lemon juice or citric acid is called for. The vinegar is only half as acidic as the others. The vinegar is acetic acid, not citric acid.

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