This is the first in a series of articles on Citrus.
In Part I, I discussed how squeezing fresh juice from common oranges is a poor choice for orange juice, and suggested an easy (though seasonal) solution in a few good varietals suited for juice. We all need to be aware of the method of production of the processed orange juice product.
The Queasy Fix: Processed Orange Juice
To be candid, processed orange juice is Frankenstein’s monster. It doesn’t really matter if it is from concentrate (FCOJ) or not from concentrate (NFC). The juice may have been freshly squeezed at one time, but the journey it takes to your jigger renders it far from “fresh squeezed.”
In her book, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, Alissa Hamilton1, a recent Food and Society Fellow with the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, describes the NFC process. Here’s the scoop:
Freshly squeezed juice is first centrifuged to remove the oils.2 Next, after pasteurization, the most production popular method de-oxygenates the juice for protection against spoilage. This is because all the excess Valencias (in Florida and Brazil) are processed and held in huge aseptic tanks for storage and use when not in season.
This volume keeps the NFC OJ available year-round. Since removing the oxygen destroys almost all organic-compound flavors in the juice, producers purchase flavor packs from fragrance and flavor companies. The product is re-flavored and shipped to you.
From concentrate orange juice doesn’t get de-oxygenated, but it does get superheated to remove excess water. This process destroys flavors so producers purchase flavor packs from fragrance and flavor companies.3 Sound familiar? The concentrate is frozen and stored to reconstitute and bottle, or sold directly to you in the add 3 cans of cold water containers we all grew up with.
So should you avoid processed orange juice products? It’s up to you. Personally, I do use it in certain circumstances. It all comes down to the taste: Some producers have a relatively decent flavor pack combination that mimics fresh Valencias enough to be a substitute. I call on Frankenstein when all I can find is out-of season or boring common oranges, or if you cannot find a local fresh4 juice in jugs at your Whole Joes, or if you only have convenience stores or mega-grocery-marts near you and you have an OJ emergency.5
Coming in the third and final part, I’ll go into fresh juice products and my own personal recommendation for the orange juice conundrum.