a peek inside the fishbowl

22 Jan, 2013

If life hands you lemon liquid…

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

Sliced lemons

I don’t know why my daughter was holding the mega bottle of lemon juice concentrate. I was busy tidying the family room when she suddenly informed me that “it’s not just lemons in here.”

Let’s just say I was a tiny bit surprised.

I’m a conscientious label reader. I generally don’t buy things with glucose-fructose, or palm oil, or corn syrup, or anything hydrogenated. But for some reason I never bothered reading the label of the concentrated lemon juice I always keep on hand in the fridge. It’s been a kitchen staple for years! Why? It’s super convenient and I’m a lazy cook. And it’s cheap. Having a bottle of it saves me from having to buy fresh lemons all the time. I use it in loads of things: my afternoon cup of tea, lemonade (here’s the recipe I use), marinades, salad dressings, pretty much anything that needs a shot of lemon. I always knew it that using it in recipes wasn’t as good as using “real lemon” – but convenience seemed to trump it all.

Anyway, I asked the kid to read me the ingredients. It contains: “water, concentrated lemon juice, lemon oil, sodium benzoate, sulphites.” Verrrrry interrrrresting.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative that’s used mostly in acidic foods. (You can read more about it on Wikipedia.)

The have a feeling that the lemon oil adds flavour where flavour was lost (read: when water is the first ingredient).

And then there’s the sulphites. Some people have an allergy or sensitivity to sulphites. Health Canada has information on their website about sulphites here. Sulphites are naturally occurring in many foods and it has antimicrobial properties, and thus it stands to reason that the addition of sulphites gives foods a longer shelf life. Sulphites can cause headaches and intestinal cramping and apparently isn’t great for people with breathing issues. Sigh.

Bah. Whatever. This is all getting too complicated for me. I don’t feel like getting a degree in chemistry in order to better understand all this stuff. I’m just going to start slicing up lemons for my tea instead.

10 Responses to "If life hands you lemon liquid…"

1 | Kaitlin

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:24 pm


I generally find that I get enough juice out of my lemons that it’s worth the effort. Also: lemon zest is tasty in everything. Limes, however, I cannot for the life of me juice properly.

2 | andrea

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:26 pm


Kaitlin, I still dream about your lemon squares… :)

3 | Shawna

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:41 pm


I always keep at least one lemon and one lime on hand. I’ve never been able to abide the bottled stuff.

The trade off is that I’ve had to throw the odd lemon zombie out (a dried shell of its former self) from time to time.

4 | Shannon

January 22nd, 2013 at 5:48 pm


I find the liquid lemon tastes funny – refuse to buy/use it.
You can get more juice from lemons if you microwave them for 20 seconds or so and then roll them on the counter a bit before you cut them open.

5 | Stacey K

January 22nd, 2013 at 6:16 pm


We buy lemons for many reasons, but this science experiment sold me: a dish of “lemon liquid” in the fridge will not mold (must be the benzoate/sulphites), but a dish of fresh squeezed lemon juice will. Lesson learned: real food molds.

When our lemons start getting soft, or slightly elderly, we slice them all up and freeze them in ice cubes to use in our water.

6 | mt

January 22nd, 2013 at 9:26 pm


I also stopped buying the presqueezed lemon liquid as well. I always keep a handful of lemons on hand to make my own lemonade. Super easy, super quick, and only 3 ingredients: lemon, water, and sugar. So refreshing!

7 | Javamom

January 23rd, 2013 at 10:43 am


Loblaws in Toronto sells organic lemon juice in a glass bottle with nothing in it according to the label. But I too squeeze lemons….since I’ve found the big cheap green plastic bottles had stuff in it.

8 | Javamom

January 23rd, 2013 at 10:45 am


One thing about the non-organic lemons – I use a potato scrubber to scrub the hell out of the lemon peel, so I can still use the peel in some recipes. I don’t know if that will remove all the stuff prevalent on the peel, but it makes me feel better to scrub like that, prior to using the lemon slices.

9 | Krista

January 23rd, 2013 at 5:45 pm


I couldn’t find the bottled stuff in India, so I got in the habit of squeezing. Since we’ve been home, I started buying bags when they are on sale, juicing them all and freezing in ice cube trays. Now I have a baggie of frozen juice cubes for whenever I need!

10 | pat cook

January 25th, 2013 at 3:24 pm


Wow, thanks for all that info everyone. I have often thought of freezing lemon, lime, and orange juice from fresh, now I will definately try it.
Thanks for the sulphite info Andrea, the link was very helpful. I have long known I was sensitive and even though I’m 50+ now I am still learning.

Yesterday I had a single glass of a wine I can tolerate, with pasta and clams, and now I am thinking that the canned clams might have had sulphites or msg, because I experienced some all-too-familiar symptoms.

Please note: Something to teach young teens with sensitivities is that alcohol and rec. drugs can exaggerate the body’s reaction while lowering our brain’s abilty to deal with the consequences. Yet another reason to be careful.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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