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!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 6:11 am | Edit
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I'm considering the possibility of switching to "real" orange juice, but I'm afraid it would require too much time, effort and money. And that I'd be stuck, never again satisfied with mere "not from concentrate" mass-produced juice. How many oranges and how much time does it take to make a quart of juice (including cleanup) with a good home juicer?

Posted by Peter V on Wednesday, April 01, 2009 at 3:07 pm

First thing you do is teach your kids to make the juice. :)

For me, the longest time goes into the before and after work—home-grown fruit requires more washing, though if you don't mind a little bug poop in your juice, you can skip that part. And I bury the rinds instead of throwing them out. If you get your fruit from the grocery store it at least looks cleaner; you can judge whether or not that's really true.

Actually slicing the fruit in half and squeezing the juice is a quick operation with our old juicer, and I'm sure there are better ones on the market these days (and worse ones as well). Ours looks a little like this. The kids would really like the squeezing part, I think.

Quantity, however, may be a problem, if I remember correctly how much orange juice you drank each week at Carroll Street. I think the last four-pound bag I bought at the store made about a quart and a half— it's hard to tell since we usually sample our wares generously during preparation. (The exhortation about kine treading out grain comes to mine.) You might want to stick with the store-bought version for everyday wear and let the good stuff be for "Sunday best."

As a compromise, check out the juice at Whole Foods. Ours, at least, sells unpasteurized orange and grapefruit juice. It doesn't say so on the label, but it doesn't say "pasteurized" either, and I was told that it is the real thing. If it's not, it's the best imitation I've tasted.

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, April 01, 2009 at 3:55 pm

There is a great danger in becoming an orange juice snob. My solution in Switzerland so far is to occasional pay out the ear for a good glass of orange juice from an automatic juice machine, but it is far to expensive to be made into a regular habit. However, I just discovered "Saftorangen" or juice-oranges that I can buy in Germany for 1.50 Euro (2USD) a 1.5kg bag. That's about 11 medium-sized oranges with no seeds so I can dump all the pulp back into the juice which means the yield is much higher - about four cups or OJ per bag. I squeeze by hand, which isn't so bad since I'm only squeezing for myself (my husband still drinks the concentrate stuff). I guess that means a half-gallon (about 2 liters) costs 4 dollars. For an idea of how incredibly cheap that is, the same amount of the cheapest OJ from concentrate in Switzerland is 2.50 USD. I can't remember the price of the good stuff exactly, but it would be something like 10USD. The same amount from the above mentioned juice machine would be over 20USD. Needless to say, I'm quite happy with the new discovery of Saftorangen!

Posted by Janet on Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 2:54 pm

$4/half gallon of good juice is a great price, even here. At our local Fresh Market (pricey but much closer than Whole Foods)I pay $5/half gallon for grapefruit juice and $6/half gallon for orange. The price is better at the farmer's market, but again I pay in travel time. Last week I paid $2 for 4 lbs (1.8 kg) oranges (on sale), so your price is a good one. Why is orange juice so expensive in Switzerland, if oranges are not?

Don't think of yourself as an orange juice snob. It's more like understanding why living in Japan is a richer experience than visiting the Japanese pavilion at EPCOT.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 3:44 pm

It must be noted that if I made orange juice from Swiss oranges the price would be a good deal higher, so my comparison only reveals my situation and can only apply to those living close enough to the German boarder to shop in Germany. Unlike the sales tax in the states, if you import German goods into Switzerland (as a resident) you can get the sales tax back from the German government but don't have to pay Swiss tax. Of course there is a limit on the amount per person per day so it is only of personal advantage. With tax on food at 7% and the VAT at 19%, this is significant. For some reason OJ in DE is taxed at 19%. Makes me think it's considered a luxury drink. Also, don't forget there is a fair amount of labor involved in biking in Germany (which I do for piano lessons anyway), filling out the paperwork for the tax refund, and of course squeezing the oranges and paying for the disposal of the peels. Still, it's a fun discovery.

Posted by Janet on Monday, April 06, 2009 at 2:36 am

I'll ask my husband if we can get some worms. There might be room for them at the foot of the bed . . .

Posted by Janet on Monday, April 06, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Paying for disposal of the peels? You mean I shouldn't begrudge the impulse that makes me bury ours under the grapefruit tree? I'd say you need to get some worms, but they don't like citrus peels -- too acid. And even if they did, they'd never keep up with the quantity we produce in making juice. Fortunately, citrus peels decay very quickly, so whenever you get a bit of ground for a garden, you'll be golden.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, May 05, 2019 at 11:27 pm