Monday, June 15, 2009

Using lime to strengthen fruit

Lime, the mineral, not the fruit, is often used in Mexican cooking. Specifically, what is done is the lime powder is combined with cold water (about 1 Tbsp to 2 qt water) and then a particular fruit is submerged in this solution; how long depends on the fruit and how firm you want it... the longer it is in the solution the tougher it will become. Traditionally it is used for papaya, but I wanted to try and see if it worked with other fruit, so I chose apricots.

I chose apricots because whenever you cook them they tend to turn to mush and completely fall apart, and while they may taste good, the texture is that of a fruit puree. I pitted these Blenheim apricots. They were way under ripe (stone fruit is not easily procured in NY) so they were easy to quarter and then I removed their pits. I put them in the lime solution for about 2 hours, strained them, rinsed them and then cooked them in a regular simple syrup, just under a boil.

As you can see from the picture, they held their shape very well and are almost translucent, their water content having been almost completely replaced by sugar, which will also mean that it will preserve the fruit for a long period of time.

Also, and this is very important, the flavor was that of a very ripe apricot, without the usual mealiness that comes with it.

I also tried papaya, but I left it too long in the lime solution (24 hours) and it was as firm as a baseball glove. Not very appetizing.

Grapes worked well too, but they had to be peeled one by one, and frankly, who has the time for that?


  1. as i understand it, this works because the calcium in the lime reacts with native LM pectins in the fruit, making it resistant to breakdown during cooking (i.e., forming a thermoirreversible gel). i've done a similar soak-and-cook using sliced lettuce cores soaked in a calcium lactate solution before pickling.

    i wonder if the process could be sped up with vacuum infusion?

  2. I have often maintained that life is too short to peel a grape :D

  3. It's worth trying. It seems that in principle it should work.
    Thanks for the info.