Lime is the most used fruit by bartenders because its juice is necessary for making a Mojito, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre and many other drinks.
In this article I will be discussing the various lime varieties, I’ll clarify the difference between Mexican and Brazilian limes and I’ll explain how to process and best preserve this fruit and its squeezed juice.
First of all, it is necessary to know that the term lime is not limited to a single species, rather it refers to several species belonging to the citrus genus. However, there are two main species: Citrus aurantifolia and Citrus latifolia.
Citrus aurantifolia is also known as key lime or Mexican lime while the citrus latifolia is also called Persian lime or Tahiti lime.
Be careful not to confuse the common name of the fruit with its origin!
Mexican, Persian or Tahitian limes, in this case DO NOT indicate the origin, it’s just the common name. Instead it’s different when we go to the supermarket or the vendor to buy limes: Mexican or Brazilian lime, in this case indicate the origin but they are of the same species, Citrus latifolia (Persian lime or Tahitian lime). We should therefore say: Persian or Tahitian lime cultivated in Mexico or Brazil. To be sure of this, all you need to do is check the ‘crate’: you should find written on the box the species, the size and the origin, for example: Persian lime from Mexico or Tahiti lime from Brazil. It’s hard to find Citrus aurantifolia (key lime or Mexican lime) in Italy or Europe.
There are another two interesting species for bartenders, though not for the direct use of their juice.
The first one is the Citrus x hystrix, called Kaffir lime or Combava, whereas the second is Citrus x lemonia, called Rangpur. The kaffir lime is famous for its peel and its leaves. The peel is lumpy but very fragrant, as are the leaves, while the juice is not interesting. The rangpur lime is, instead, one of the botanicals of the Tanqueray rangpur gin.
Now that you know the main species, let’s go into the details of usage and preservation.
There are two ways of thinking regard the use of the juice: squeezing the fruit on the spot, or in advance and then storing it in a bottle. Let’s try understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both methods.
Squeezing juice on the spot guarantees greater freshness and juice aroma. Oxidation will be next to nothing. However, squeezing on the spot slows down the service and is not suitable for bars with a large amount of work. Another problem stems from the fact that not all fruits are identical and the final drink will be subject to this variability. However, this can be negligible.
Squeezing the juice in advance accelerates service and guarantees a more uniform juice because it has been mixed. However, lime juice oxidizes very quickly, after just a few hours it has already changed. In order to avoid and slow down its deterioration, it should be bottled immediately in dark glass bottles and, using wine saver, you need to draw the remaining air. Keep refrigerated during the service. I recommend using small bottles (250-500ml) so that, once the bottle is opened, the juice will be disposed of more quickly.
Lime also has a very aromatic peel and it’s a shame to waste it. Before squeezing them it’s worth removing the peel with a potato peeler or use a zip-zester. The peel is excellent for flavouring spirits (such as Cachaca for the Caipirinha), for flavouring sugars, for oleo saccharum, a key ingredient in punch, or for homemade Lime-Cordial. Using every part that a fruit as to offer will cut costs and you’ll have a responsible consumption.
With regard to preservation, limes don’t tolerate low temperatures. It’s okay to put them in the fridge but at temperatures around 10°C. Temperatures that are too low, if stored for a long time, cause cooling damage. Like all citrus fruits, they are non-climacteric fruits so when harvested they do not have a complete maturation. It is necessary to keep them away from fruit that produces ethylene, such as apples and passion fruits, because this hormone causes the loss of the green peel color.
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