Make tasty, healthy juices from the bounty of your own garden. Here’s guidance in how juicing works, produce selection, canning and freezing juice and more.
Preserving Summer’s Bounty (Rodale Books, 1995) is an extensive resource on how to preserve all kinds of food — from the traditional tried-and-true preserving methods to quick-and-easy ways to get the most out of your garden produce. This book, from the Rodale Food Center and edited by Susan McClure, includes instructions on how to harvest, freeze, can and preserve what you grow, plus recipes for how to use the results. In the following excerpt, learn all about juicing, a great way to get the nutrients and taste from garden produce.
Buy this book in the GRIT store: Preserving Summer’s Bounty.
You may have drunk orange juice faithfully every morning as a child. It was every mother’s prescription for good health and a full day’s vitamin C. As you grew up, you probably added apple, cranberry, grape, and tomato juice to the list.
And now, the grocery stores are overflowing with exciting (and pricey) juice blends. We don’t need to be convinced that juices are delicious and nutritious. The great news is that they’re easy to make at home.
Making juice of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables is so popular that it’s touted as a way to cure assorted ailments. And while we can’t prove that this is true, we do know that drinking fresh juices will help you meet dietary requirements for fruits and vegetables. And you can be sure that your homemade juice is free of any undesirable additives, preservatives, and artificial flavoring or coloring.
According to the USDA, you should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, which can be difficult for busy folks who sometimes rely on fast food to keep going. The beauty of juices, especially for folks like this, is that they provide the nutrition and flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables without the bulk. You can drink a healthy portion of required vitamins and minerals in a modest-size glass. But juices lack fiber, which is also important to your diet. So juices can supplement but never replace whole fruits and vegetables.
You’ll also find that homemade juices can add exciting new flavors to everyday cooking. Use juices to replace water when you cook rice, prepare cream soups, or make broth for meat or seafood. Cook down thick juices made from tomatoes or other vegetables to use as sauces for pasta or sautéed vegetables.
Use fruit juices in yogurt-based desserts, as a liquid in baked goods, for sorbets, and as fruity ice cubes for iced tea or children’s drinks.
What’s even better is that juicing provides you with an alternative way of putting your garden extras to good use. If you’ve done all your canning and freezing for the year but still have some fruits and vegetables ripening outdoors, you can convert fairly large quantities into manageable amounts of juice. For the best nutrition, drink them right away. Or save extra juice by freezing or canning it to use in future recipes.
By juicing your own homegrown fruits and vegetables, you get good nutrition and pure, chemical-free juice. But if you’re buying the produce to make it, you’ll probably spend more than you would for commercial juices. You’d come out ahead, though, if you bought produce to make unusual juice not readily available in most stores.
When you extract the juice from your fruits and vegetables, you draw out flavorings and sugars. You also extract nutrients such as B-carotene, folic acid, vitamin C, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The nutrient levels vary according to the kind of produce you use, but all fresh vegetables and fruit are rich in beneficial ingredients. Unfortunately, once extracted from the body of the vegetable or fruit, nutrients and minerals begin to deteriorate. Drink them immediately, if possible.
Or preserve them—with some nutrient loss—by refrigerating, freezing, or canning.
When you extract the juice, you leave the bulk of the produce behind. A pound of carrots becomes an 8-ounce glass of juice. Seven medium tomatoes make a drink for two. The juice from a pound of spinach will fill a small juice glass half full. The bulk that’s lost contains fiber, which is a very valuable thing to eat in abundance every day. Fiber helps keep you regular and helps you maintain a healthy weight. It also lowers your chance of developing cancer and other serious health conditions, according to experts. So drink juice as a healthful alternative to soda and coffee, but make sure you also eat lots of fruits and vegetables whole.
If you’re making juice to drink fresh, juicing is a snap. All you need is fresh fruits or vegetables and something to juice them with. If you plan to can or freeze your juice, you’ll need an extra step and a few more pieces of equipment. Get organized before you harvest your fruits and vegetables so you can make and enjoy juice without delay.
Theoretically, you can juice just about any crop. But fruits are easier, and some fruits are easier than others. Grapes and citrus fruits, for instance, are naturals for juicing. Bananas and avocados are another story; they turn into a mash rather than a juice and are best used to fortify other fruit juices. Tomatoes are the easiest of the vegetables to juice. Carrots, cabbage, and celery also make classic vegetable juices, at their best when they’re mixed with one another or with other juices.
But you also can use less common but delicious juicing fruits such as apricots, blackberries, melons, plums, and strawberries. Or experiment with healthy blends of vegetables such as asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, ginger, onions, parsley, peppers and radishes. Try asparagus, beet, or onion juice to add a unique zest to cooked dishes.
Use ripe, unblemished produce of any shape or size. Start with top quality to give you the best flavor. But if you’re going to use a juicer or extractor, be sure it can accommodate the kind of produce you have in mind. Some juicers only work on citrus fruits; you need an extractor for more difficult vegetable and fruits. And even then, some models won’t handle tough items like currants, rhubarb, or woody roots. Read the manufacturer’s information for details.
The equipment you need to extract juice depends on the kind of produce and the budget you have. With grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange juice, you can twist fruit halves on the familiar cone-shaped citrus juicer quite effectively. Or, cut citrus fruit into quarters and squeeze them by hand.
For soft, juicy fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, you can extract the juice manually without much trouble. Get a large pot for heating the produce and a strainer or cheesecloth for separating pulp from juice. For firmer fruits and vegetables, you may want to buy a heavy-duty juice extractor.
To save extra juice by freezing or canning, you’ll need standard airtight freezer containers or canning jars with two-piece caps.
If you’re going to make juice regularly, it could be worth investing in an electric juice extractor. Juice extractors work quickly and efficiently without cooking the produce, which saves nutrients. Find an extractor that’s big enough to accommodate the quantity of produce you expect to juice. And be sure you get a model that’s easy to use and clean. For your convenience, look for a machine that has an automatic pulp injector, few parts to clean, and wide feeder tubes for easy produce insertion, plus allows easy dismantling and produces enough power to handle tough jobs. You can choose from decent extractors for as low as $60 to deluxe machines that run up to $300. Here’s what to look for.
Steam juicer. Steam juicers are hard to find these days, having been replaced by many models of centrifuge or liquefier juicers. But they remain the favorite of Anita Hirsch, Rodale Food Center nutritionist. Use a steam juicer for easy one-pot juicing, without the mashing and stirring needed for hand juicing. Put the fruit into the top section of the juicer, which is perforated like a colander, and put water in the bottom section. When the water boils, steam rises through the center section of the juicer into the top. Fruit juice drains through the perforations into the bottom of the middle section, where it drains out through a tube into a bottle or bowl.
A steam juicer makes the juicing process a whole lot easier because everything happens in one pot, and you don’t need to mash and stir the fruit along the way. It looks something like a double boiler. The bottom holds boiling water. The top section is really two parts: there is a colander-like basket that holds the fruit and a pan below it to catch the juice. As the water in the bottom boils, it creates steam that rises into the basket above. When exposed to the hot steam, the fruit easily yields its clear juice, which is caught in a pan below the colander that has an outlet for draining off juice into bottles.
To use a steam juicer, just wash the fruits or vegetables thoroughly and cut up the larger or firmer foods for quicker extraction of the juice. This is a marvelous timesaver when juicing elderberries or other small fruits that go into the juicer stems, seeds, pits, skins, and all.
Centrifuge juicer. Most juicers on the market that are designed to extract juice from carrots, celery, and other vegetables as well as from fruits are centrifuge juicers. They whorl around, grinding the food with a blade at high speeds and releasing the juice. The centrifugal action throws the juice off while the pulp is trapped on the strainer. The better models have an automatic pulp ejector that forces the pulp from the strainer into a separate compartment so that the strainer is free to accept more pulp. This is a nice feature because it means you don’t have to continually stop the machine to clean off the strainer as you’re juicing. We tested a half-dozen such juicers and found that they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
So get a personal recommendation or check a buyer’s guide before you buy.
Liquefier or pulverizer. We don’t know what else to call this machine because it’s not technically a juicer, although it does make thick juice. You may know it as a Vita-Mix, which is a brand name and the most popular of this type of machine. It mashes fruits or vegetables—skin, seeds, and all—into a thick homogeneous liquid, which then gets strained through a strainer bag. This juicer isn’t cheap; it costs more than most other types, but it does more than make juice. The Vita-Mix can perform many tasks in addition to juicing, including making ice cream, grinding grain, and kneading dough.
The earliest steam juicers were all made of aluminum, a metal we don’t think much of for preparing foods, especially acid foods that are heated for some time as juice is. Acids react with aluminum to form an aluminum salt that can then be transferred to food by the liquid. Look for enamel and stainless steel steam juicers instead of aluminum.
It’s easy to turn fresh fruits and vegetables into nutritious, flavorful juices. If you make more than your family can drink in a day or two, juice keeps beautifully when it’s frozen or canned. Here’s what to do.
Wash all produce well. Use hot, soapy water if you bought your fruits or vegetables at the grocery store. Peel off the skin or peel on bananas, beets, citrus fruits, imported tropical fruits, kiwifruits and melons. You also should peel any fruit or vegetable that’s been coated with wax and may contain pesticide residues on the skin.
Remove the pits or seeds from apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums. Cut off inedible greens from carrots, peppers, radishes, rhubarb, and tomatoes. You can leave the foliage on beets, broccoli, garlic, and onions. If you’re using a juicer, cut the produce up into sizes that will easily fit into the machine.
You can extract juice with power juicers or you can juice some fruits and vegetables manually. Here’s how. Simply squeeze grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange juice out by hand.
Cut the fruit into quarters, and squeeze it until no more juice is released. Other fruits and tomatoes are easy to juice once they’ve been heated. Heat breaks down the tissues and allows the juice to flow freely.
Basically all you do is simmer tomatoes or fruit in water or in its own juice in a stainless steel, glass, or enamel pot. (Don’t use aluminum because the metal can react with the food acid.) Cook the fruit until its tender, then press it through two layers of cheesecloth or through a food mill or colander. Straining through cheesecloth will give you the clearest juice.
The juice may not need sweetening if you started with ripe fruit. If you do want to sweeten it, though, add honey or sugar to taste. Usually 1/2 cup is sufficient for each gallon of juice. You also can add lemon juice to peach and apricot nectar or to sweet cherry and apple juice to add a little zing and help preserve the color. But wait to add spices and sweeteners until after you make your juice. Then you can adjust the flavorings according to the richness and sweetness of the juice.
Fresh juices are at their best if you drink them immediately after extracting the juice. Nutrient levels drop from the moment the juice is released and exposed to air. But if you’ve made more than you can use right away, you can store juices in the refrigerator for a day or two. Or you can freeze or can most juices.
Freezing juice is easiest, but big containers of juice will take up a lot of space in your freezer. If you’ve already heated the juice, don’t bother to blanch it before freezing. Just pour it into clean glass jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace (in quarts) for expansion. Seal and freeze right away. You can also pour the juice into ice cube trays, freeze, and then transfer the juice cubes to plastic freezer bags.
If you didn’t heat the juice when you made it, you can flash-pasteurize it, just like commercial juices. Quickly heat it to 185°F, cool it right away, and freeze. The secret is to work in small quantities so that the heating and cooling go fast. Heat about a quart at a time to 185°F, which is to simmering, not boiling. Use a jelly thermometer to get an accurate reading of the temperature. Then pour the hot juice into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and freeze. Don’t let the juice cool down on the counter.
You want to cool it quickly, and putting it in the freezer is the easiest and quickest way to do this.
Canning procedures for fruit juices vary from food to food, so check specific directions in the recipes. However, the delicate flavor of most fruit juices can be spoiled by the high temperatures of a long boiling-water bath. Tomato juice flavor isn’t damaged by boiling-water-bath canning, though. Other vegetable juices may need processing in a pressure canner.
If you have a simple food mill, you don’t even need a juicer to make tomato juice. Just simmer the tomatoes in water until they’re tender, then put them through the mill.
Here are even more juicing tips, plus a bonus recipe.
Have you noticed how much more complex and delightful freshly squeezed orange juice tastes by comparison with frozen concentrate?
The reason is that frozen concentrates are made by heating to evaporate and remove the excess moisture. Unfortunately, heat destroys some of the finer flavor elements. Frozen concentrate will lose even more flavor if it‘s allowed to thaw and refreeze during shipping or when it‘s displayed in the store.
The amount of juice that any fruit or vegetable will yield depends on how much fluid is in that kind of produce and on the method of extraction. For example, apples and berries, which contain higher amounts of solids and pectin, will give a lower juice yield than grapes. And more powerful juice extractors tend to do a better job of pulling every last bit of juice out of produce than smaller and weaker extractors.
If your tomato juice is too watery, remove the seeds and the watery gel inside them, and juice the pulp of the tomato.
If you have an abundance of fruit in the freezer, you can thaw a portion and turn it into juice. This is handy to know when you run out of fresh juice and don’t have time to run to the store.
Leftover pulp is great to toss on the compost pile. But you also may be able to find other uses for it. For example, use carrot pulp for carrot bread or cake. And try peach, nectarine, or apple pulp for fruit butters, or use them in fruit breads or muffins.
If you get tired of juicing by twisting citrus fruits on cone-shaped citrus juicers, you can buy small electric citrus juicers for as little as $20. They work much like your hand juicer but are powered by an engine instead of your arm muscles.
Because most vegetables aren’t as juicy as fruits, it takes a lot of produce to make a little vegetable juice. For example, you need a pound of fresh carrots to make an 8-ounce glass of carrot juice.
It’s easy to make your own frozen lemonade concentrate. Here’s how.
1/3 cup honey
Juice of 8 lemons (about 11/2 cups lemon juice)
Slice of lemon (garnish)
Fresh mint (garnish)
Yield: 11/2 cups lemon slice or fresh mint.
Warm the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon juice, and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat, and let the mixture cool. Freeze it in ice cube trays (an ice cube is about 2 tablespoons), and when frozen, transfer the cubes to plastic freezer bags. To use, combine 4 tablespoons syrup or 2 frozen cubes with 1 cup water. Add more sweetening, if desired. Garnish with a lemon slice or fresh mint.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Preserving Summer’s Bounty, edited by Susan McLure and the Rodale Food Center and published by Rodale Books, 1995. Buy this book in our store: Preserving Summer's Bounty.
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