Acidulated water is water that an acid has been added to it, usually lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar. Citric acid and ascorbic acid can also be used. The water is used to prevent the cut skin of fruits and vegetables from browning when they are exposed to air. Recipes often call for tossing apples, avocados or artichokes in acidulated water because these are all things that begin to brown very quickly when exposed to air. The water prevents oxidation of the cut portions of your food, which means that it stops the slices from turning brown by providing a barrier between the fruit’s (or vegetable’s) flesh and the air.
The fruit or vegetables can simply be tossed in the acidulated water if you need to stave off browning for only a short time. This is a great way to treat fruit that is going into a fruit salad as you chop it, for instance. The fruit or vegetables can also be held in the water for an extended period of time, for at least 2 hours or so, if you need to ensure that they keep the color even longer. This is a great way to hold veggies that you are chopping, so you can prep them in advance and cook with them later.
I like using acidulated water because it only needs a small amount of acid to help prevent browning, and it is great for fresh fruit. Many people simply toss their sliced apples, for example, in straight lemon juice to prevent them from browning. This approach works, but lemon juice has a strong tart flavor and it can actually overwhelm the taste of the apple, avocado or whatever other fruit you’re using it with. The acid in the water is much, much more subtle and only adds a hint of brightness – not a strong tart or sour flavor – to fresh fruit, if you can even detect it. If you are baking with your fruit – with apples or pears, for instance – you do not need to use acidulated water or lemon juice. When you are baking, you want your desserts to brown and tenderize, so a little extra browning can actually improve the look of the finished product when it is time to serve it.
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
or 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 cup water
Combine ingredients in a medium bowl and use to coat freshly cut fruits or vegetables that may otherwise brown when exposed to air. Recipe can be doubled or otherwise scaled up if more water is needed.