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Substituting Lemon Juice for Vinegar in Home Canning Recipes

Another common question in home canning is, may I substitute lemon juice  for vinegar in my home canning recipes, like salsa, tomato sauce, jams, and other home canned foods? Lemon juice, lime juice and vinegar are commonly used as acidifiers in home canning; juices added to increase the acidity (decrease the pH) of canned foods to prevent the growth of pathogens like botulism.

The simple answer is yes, you may use lemon (or lime juice) in place of vinegar in home canning recipes, as lemon and lime juice are slightly more acidic than vinegar.  Some people prefer the tastes of lemon or lime juice over vinegar, as they feel it has a milder flavor.

Of course, if a recipe specifies lime juice, or lemonm juice, you can't switch to vinegar.

Notice in the table farther down this page that vinegar is considerably less acidic than lemon and lime juice.

pH chart for home canning

PH of common juices and vinegar, in order of decreasing acidity

Item Approximate pH
Lime Juice 2.00 - 2.35
Lemon Juice 2.00 - 2.60
Vinegar 2.40 - 3.40
Grapefruit Juice, canned 2.90 - 3.25
Vinegar, cider 3.10
Apple Juice
3.35 - 4.00
Orange Juice, California 3.30 - 4.19
Orange, Juice Florida 3.30 - 4.15
Pineapple Juice, canned 3.30 - 3.60
Oranges, Florida "color added" 3.60 - 3.90
Oranges, Florida "color added" 3.60 - 3.90
Oranges, Florida 3.69 - 4.34

References:

  • Studies on safe acidification of salsa for home boiling water canning. B. A. Nummer, M. Thacker, E. M. D'Sa, and E. L. Andress, Dept. of Foods & Nutrition, University of Georgia, 328 Hoke Smith Annex, Athens, GA 30602-4356. Paper 33C-9. Presented at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, NV, July 14, 2004.See this study comparing all 3. 
  • For those who are curious, the methods and conditions for determining the pH and acidity of foods are also summarized in 21 CFR 114.90. Methodology for pH is generally available from pH meter and electrode manufacturers.

 

 

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