The Trouble With Orange Juice – Part II

October 29th, 2010 by Colonel Tiki
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

orange_frankTo 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 JuiceAlissa 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.

Edit: Please consider purchasing Squeezed:

  1. Who is a very nice person to email []
  2. which are sold to the same market where fragrance and flavor companies shop for raw natural ingredients []
  3. http://www.ultimatecitrus.com/oj.html []
  4. where fresh means sell-by-date ranges of 3 days or so []
  5. it happens more that I’d like to admit []

The Trouble With Orange Juice – Part I

October 25th, 2010 by Colonel Tiki
This is the first in a series of articles on Citrus.

oranges_and_orange_juiceWithin cocktail circles, ‘fresh squeezed’  (or a la minute if you will) is the rallying cry for citrus. While I am not one to go against this, with all rules there are exceptions. This particular exception is the eponymous orange.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is in most cases insipid and may well ruin your cocktail. Oh my, that’s a strong statement (even with the qualifying clause)! Let me explain why I find it to be true.

The Orange Scene

First, let us consider the fruit itself. Most of us would first reach for an orange for orange juice and hand squeeze it at the point of service. This can really bite you in the ass, and you should blame the produce industry. Modern produce propagation is mainly concerned with yield, ease of harvest, appearance, and shelf life. Please note that “flavor” is not amongst them. Not to say that flavor is unimportant; as long as the flavor is non-offensive it is acceptable.

The most popular use for whole orange is for eating directly or zesting; not juicing. The most common nonseasonal1 varietal is the “common sweet orange,” followed by the Bahia Navel. Both of these have good features for our use: They are pleasing to eat, the rind2 contains decent oils and produces flavorful zest. The juice is almost always insipid on each. Use these lovely looking fruit for garnish and oil expression but please don’t juice them for use in your drink.

The Easy Fix: Varietals

Now, I’m sure many reading would be quick to point out the well known varietal Valencia is chiefly for juicing and this truth is the start of our journey. Most things growing in the ground have a peak of their flavor at a certain time of the year even when they produce year round.3 Valencias are no different. Their season (in the most liberal range) is from the end of spring until the beginning of autumn: One third of a year at most. Yes, you can likely find Valencias year round but as with the Navel and generic above4, Off-season or shipped oranges are usually poor specimens for juicing.

Other varietals can help fill in the gaps in the year, and here are some to consider if they are available at your local Whole Joes:

800px-caracaranavelorangesCara Cara: California:
Season: Late Autumn – Spring

This cross between two Navel varietals5 shows dark orange color and complex juice flavor. Most available come from California or shipped from Venezuela. You should favor the closer locality: everywhere should now be declaring the source of produce. The rind is thin yet produces good oils, I would suggest zesting for culinary uses rather than twists or expression.

Hamlin OrangesHamlin: Florida & California
Season: Mid Autumn – Mid Winter

This lovely little orange made it through the great freeze of 1875-6 which destroyed most other orange crops and plants. It has a high juice yield of a light, flowery orange flavor with undertones of honey. I prefer these oranges for the Nui Nui. The rind is thin and of little use, though it does aid in pliability for good juicing.

valencia-orangesValencia: California & Florida
Season:
Late Spring – Early Autumn

Orange Juice products are produced from Valencia stock in season: While at the peak you cannot beat a good Valencia for the quintessential flavor of fresh juice. The rind is thinner than Navels yet still can yield good oil expression.

Note:

It isn’t impossible to find an accessible Navel or general sweet when in season from November to March. Your chances will improve greatly by looking for these characteristics: location, weight, color. The locality should be your closest coast line state: California or Florida. The weight should be heavy for its size – it should feel dense. The color should be as close to green as possible. All oranges are green in their native tropics: colder climes and senescence cause the process that lead to the reveal of the orange color. Yes. Oranges are green.

What are other options?

In Part II, orange juice products – both from concentrate or not from concentrate will be presented as possible replacements for fresh orange juice.6

  1. more like grown everywhere on earth in conventional or forced methods then shipped. []
  2. The proper term is ‘flavedo’ which I adore, but find twee to use in the common parlance. Footnotes are a place where my fancy flies free. []
  3. such as the first spring sprigs of mint []
  4. Both of these have the height of season in the winter. At their peak, the juice raises from insipid to ‘OK’ []
  5. Washington and Bahia []
  6. SHOCK HORROR []