I grew up on orange juice reconstituted from frozen concentrate, but I have since forgiven my parents. It was convenient and inexpensive, and oranges did not grow on our New York State trees. It tasted fine to me, because I didn't know any better. Why I was so ignorant I'm not certain, since every two years we visited relatives in Florida—and this was in the days before a cooling cycle in the weather teamed with developers to destroy most of Central Florida's citrus groves. Perhaps orange juice from concentrate simply tasted better to me because that's what I was accustomed to, much as many children who grow up with Aunt Jemima often prefer the imitation to real maple syrup. Or maybe I simply didn't care enough, but ate what was set before me without giving it much thought.
With maturity came discrimination. When "not-from-concentrate" orange juice appeared in the grocery stores I winced at the price, but never looked back, as it made the frozen concentrate taste like so much flavored sugar water. (Later, when I read John McPhee's marvelous Oranges, I learned that flavored sugar water is a fairly accurate description of the product.) It would be another 20 years before I discovered orange juice that was orders of magnitude better than the best not-from-concentrate available in the grocery stores.
My ignorance was annihilated when a friend married into a citrus grove and juice-producing facility. There I learned that "orange juice" is not a single product with a single flavor, but varies from month to month as different varieties of orange reach their peak season. There I discovered more varieties of orange and other citrus fruit than I could imagine, and tasted the delights of many. Who knew kumquats are best eaten whole: rind, seeds, and all?
Real orange juice has not one but many incomparable flavors. And real orange juice is not pasteurized. Our friends were certified by the State of Florida to sell juice just as it came from the fruit, making the hour-plus trip to their grove worth the drive. Alas, the forces of development overcame that grove, and I have yet to find a substitute.
No substitute grove, that is. There are a couple of stores in the area where I can usually find unpasteurized orange and grapefruit juice, and our recent visit to the Winter Park Farmer's Market yielded delightful, unpasteurized tangerine juice. Lately, however, I've been closing the circle, putting our citrus juicer to full use and making our juice directly from the fruit. There is not as much variety of citrus in our grocery stores as I would like, but there is some—and I can make blends. Valencia and red grapefruit, tangelo with a hint of lemon, navel and tangerine.... Sure, it's more work, especially since I can't bear to thrown the rinds out but bury them under our backyard grapefruit tree. But 100% worthwhile!
Now if only making my own cider were so easy. The same lessons I learned at our friend's grove I re-learned on a visit to a New Hampshire apple orchard: apples come in many wonderful varieties that you will never see in the grocery store, and unpasteurized cider is incomparably better than the treated kind. Growing up in New York meant that what I lacked in good orange juice I made up for in flavorful cider. Unfortunately, even New Yorkers have a hard time finding good cider these days—and cider is a lot harder to make than orange juice.
We must take our victories where we can find them, however, and good citrus juice is within your reach even if you live far from the groves. Invest in a citrus juicer and teach yourself and your children that orange juice does not grow in cardboard cartons!