Ask Peter: Citrus juice
I have a problem with measurements in recipes. I grow lemons, oranges and limes thatare large and contain more than 1 cup of juice (limes less) so when a recipe calls for the juice and rind of 1, or whatever, lemon, orange or lime, I know I will have way too much in my fruit. Also some fruit that is purchased from supermarkets has no juice in it at all. Especially limes. What would the spoonful or cup amount be for 1 lemon, orange or lime? How do I judge? - Trish
Good question — because fruit are rarely uniform, and home grown ones even less so. Plus, of course, a yenben lemon can be quite a different size to a meyer or lemonade variety. I’d suggest the reason there aremany recipes out there, my own included, that call for the juice of 1 lemon is simply that a little more, or less, isn’t going to ruin a dish. That, of course, is okay for salad dressings, or squeezing over butter-fried fish or aroast chicken, but if you’re making a sorbet, a cake or a jelly, the amount would usually be given. If it’s not, that is the fault of the recipe writer. However, you say that your lemons produce over 1 cup (250ml) juice —whereas most that I have tested these past few days are closer to 50ml. That would pose a problem, being 500 per cent greater.
Also, assuming your fruit are large to get so much juice, the zest from half of one of your lemons would be the equivalent of the zest from two of a shop bought variety – and if you were adding that amount to a recipe, it would likely become overpowering. It’s funny though, as in the past I’ve had people say, “Why specify ¼ tsp zest, why not just say the zest of ½ lime? Who has such precise measuring spoons?”. Perhaps we writers need to be so precise we drive some people nuts, but also flexible so that competent cooks don’t feel patronised.
As for citrus juice, a squeeze added to a dressing or to deglaze a roasting dish of lamb or chicken adds something that nothing else can match. Unlike vinegar, which is very sharp and sour, lemon juice seems to lif trich foods up (think a squeeze of lemon over a grilled lamb chop) and the zest adds a real ping to risotto, salad dressings, marinades and icings. And grating a little lemon zest over a fish or lamb dish, orange zest over roast pork, or lime zest over a roast chicken just before you serve it makes it that much more delicious.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to [email protected] and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.