How to preserve lemon juice

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how to preserve lemon juice” and discuss the different methods of preserving lemon juice.

How to preserve lemon juice

Between 1980 and 2016, the lemon share of the citrus market increased from 5% to 13%, going from 5.2 to 17.5 million tons. The global demand for lemon juice is between 110 000130 000 t per year, with Argentina’s companies supplying between 65 000–75 000 t in normal harvesting seasons. Being an agricultural product subject to weather, the market is intrinsically volatile. Annual volatility has been 23% for European lemon juice 400 gpl, and 21% for Argentinian lemon juice concentrate of the same titer (1).

Lemon juice can be preserved by :

  • Refrigerating in an airtight container
  • Freezing in an ice cube tray or a sealed container
  • Canning in a jar 

Preserving lemon juice by refrigerating

Studies showed that there is an increase in the reducing sugar concentration in lemon juices during storage. The rise in total sugars could be due to hydrolysis of starch to sugars in juice during storage (2). 

Lemon juice can be refrigerated in an airtight container. To preserve lemon juice by refrigerating :

  • Pour freshly squeezed lemon juice into a clean air-tight container.
  • Close the lid and place it in a refrigerator.
  • Store the lemon juice in a few small jars if only a small quantity is needed at one time. Avoid taking the container out and placing back in the refrigerator as it can cause the entry of microbes and faster spoilage. 

Preserving lemon juice by freezing

Lemon juice can be frozen as cubes in an ice cube tray. To preserve lemon juice by freezing :

  • Pour lemon juice into an ice cube tray. Make sure that each cube is only about three-quarters full as lemon juice expands when it freezes.
  • Place the ice cube tray in a freezer for at least 8 hours until the lemon juice is completely solid. 
  • After the lemon juice the frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a clean ziplock bag. Label and place the ziplock bag back in the freezer until needed. Frozen lemon juice can also be left in the ice cube tray but it may cause faster spoiling and contamination from other products in the freezer.

Lemon juice can also be frozen in a sealed container and thawed before use. 

Studies show that the phenolic compounds of concentrated lemon juice stored at −25 °C for 180 days did not change significantly and that during the storage period juice the total carotenoid concentrations slightly decreased during storage period. But, those changes of total carotenoid contents in lemon juice concentrates were not significant, statistically (3).

Preserving lemon juice by canning

Pasteurization is essential to improve the shelf-life and safety of fruit juice. The delicate fresh composition of citrus juices is easily changed by pasteurization, as the juice undergoes various compositional changes. Pasteurization has some impacts on the quality of lemon juice, such as the loss of color, flavor, nutritional value and taste. Nonenzymatic browning caused by Maillard reaction (formation of HMF and furfural) affects the quality of fruit juices negatively, affecting its organoleptic properties, such as texture, color, taste and flavor, and nutritional quality, including the contents of vitamins, sugars and other minority compounds (3).

Lemon juice can be preserved by canning as follows :

  • Sanitize the canning jars and lids by immersing them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Boil freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • POur the boiled lemon juice to fill the jars.
  • Seal the jars tightly. 
  • Place the sealed jars in a canner with boiling water for about 15 seconds (3) minutes.
  • Allow the jars to cool down and store them in a cool, dark and dry place until needed

Shelf-life of preserved lemon juice

  • Refrigeration: Freshly squeezed, homemade lemon juice can be refrigerated for up to 3-6 days. Concentrated lemon juice which is store brought can be refrigerated for about 12 months. Concentrated lemon juice has a reduced water content so the spoilage by microbes is slower.
  • Freezing: Frozen lemon juice has a shelf-life of about 6 months. Freezing is by far the easiest and most effective way of preserving homemade lemon juice.
  • Canning: Canned lemon juice will stay fresh for about 2 years in the refrigerator, given that the canning is done correctly and hygienically. However, lemon juice is brought to a boil before canning and this would alter the flavour as well as the nutrient content. Lemon juice has a high content of Vitamin C which degrades at high temperatures.

Preserving store-bought, bottled lemon juice

Store-bought lemon juice has a longer shelf-life since it is concentrated, processed and preservatives have been added. 

Store-bought, bottled lemon juice has a shelf-life of about 12 months at room temperature.

Once opened, it must be refrigerated to avoid spoilage. Opened, refrigerated lemon juice bottles will last for about 26 months without spoilage, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Some commercial lemon juice bottles will spoil faster and others slower. It is best to read and follow the storage conditions and best-by dates on the labelling.

How to know if lemon juice has gone bad

Lemon juice will spoil within 2 to 3 days if it is not preserved properly. It is always better to check the quality of lemon juice before drinking or using it in recipes. We can use the following tips to check for the staleness of lemon juice :

  • Check the smell: Good lemon juice has a citrusy and pleasant smell. If the lemon juice smells pungent it has been spoilt by bacterial fermentation and must not be consumed. Caramel like, or burnt sugar-like sensory aromas indicates strong oxidations (5).
  • Check the colour: Good to drink lemon juice must be a light yellow colour. If the lemon juice is spoiled it will look dull, cloudy and dark yellow. Browning takes place during processing and storage leading to brown coloration of juice due to chemical reactions such as caramelization, Maillard reaction and ascorbic acid degradation. It causes loss of nutrients and the formation of intermediate undesirable compounds like furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5).
  • Check for mould and bacterial growth: Lemon juice attracts bacteria and fungi due to the high water content. If any mould or bacterial growth is observed, the juice must be discarded immediately. Mould may be visible as white or black spots on the juice. A study investigating fresh citrus juices indicated that bacteria and fungi isolated from fresh citrus juice include; Bacillus sp, Lactobacillus sp, and Staphylococcus sp while fungal species include; Aspergillus niger,  Fusarium oxysporum, Penicillium digitatum, Rhizopus delemar and Mucor vouxii (6).
  • Check the taste: If you are unsure if the lemon juice is good after checking the smell and odour, you can always take a sip. Spoilt lemon juice will taste rancid and must be discarded. Products resulted from oxidized ascorbic acid imparts an undesirable taste (5).

Other FAQs about Lemon that you may be interested in.

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How much juice does one lemon make?

What can I substitute for lemon juice?

Conclusion

In the brief guide, we answered the question “how to preserve lemon juice” and discussed the different methods of preserving lemon juice. We also looked at how to identify if the lemon juice has gone bad.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

References 

  1. Ciriminna, Rosaria, et al. The case for a lemon bioeconomy. Adv Sustain Sys, 2020, 4, 2000006.
  2. Sindhu, Ritu, and Bhupendar Singh Khatkar. Preservation and storage of Lemon (Citrus Limon) Juice. Int J Adv Eng Res Sci, 2018, 5, 237408.
  3. Uçan F, Ağçam E, Akyildiz A. Bioactive compounds and quality parameters of natural cloudy lemon juices. J Food Sci Technol, 2016, 53, 1465-1474.
  4. Yang, J. Preparing Shelf-Stable Citrus Juice and Drinks at Home. University of Guam and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  5. Bharate, Sonali S., and Sandip B. Bharate. Non-enzymatic browning in citrus juice: chemical markers, their detection and ways to improve product quality. J food sci technol, 2014, 51, 2271-2288. 
  6. Chuku, E. C., and N. P. Akani. Determination of proximate composition and microbial contamination of fresh juice from three citrus species. J Biol Gen Res, 2015, 1.8