Fresh juices are one of my favorite ways to start the day, get through a cleanse, and process fruit or other produce that I don’t have immediate plans for. By pureeing and squeezing the essence from fruits or vegetables, juicing offers liquid nutrition and nourishment that’s quick and easy for your body to absorb.
Juices are just as tasty as they are versatile, and markedly more so when they’re fresh-squeezed. Try pairing your favorite fruits and veggies for fun new flavor combos. You’ve likely tasted the sweet brightness of fresh-squeezed orange juice—how about mixing it with carrot? Fresh apple juice is incredibly more—appley—than its store-bought counterpart, and really nice when combined with celery or even parsley.
Remember, juice doesn’t just have to be made from fruit. Make your own tomato juice or veggie juice cocktail! I love juicing herbs, especially when I’ve got a big bunch I don’t have plans for. Drink your juices straight-up, or mix them into a smoothie. Freeze them in an ice cube tray to stash for later (or make into ice-cube Popsicles). You can use juice in soups or gazpachos, stocks, or compotes, even to boil rice or steam.
The basic process of juicing is really very similar to that of making aguas frescas, except that juices most often don’t include an additional sweetener. If you don’t have any special juicing equipment, you can use your blender (a food processor will do the trick, but only if you work in very small batches, as by design it can’t hold much liquid without letting some seep out).
Step 1: Chop your ingredient(s) up (the finer, the faster the process and smoother the final product).
Step 2: Throw them in the blender with just enough water or other juice to get them moving (about 1/4 cup water per cup of ingredients, or more as needed).
Step 3: Puree until smooth.
Step 4: Pour puree through a fine strainer or cheesecloth (or both).
Depending on how thick your puree, you may need to use the back of a spoon or your fingers to help push it through the straining material. You can also leave some or all of the pulp in your juice, depending on your preferences. (Note: Don’t pitch your strained pulp! It still contains a lot of the ingredients’ nutritional value and fiber. Instead, try freezing it one or more compartments of an ice cube tray and throwing it into smoothies later.)
I’d used this method many, many times to make juices and aguas frescas before I got my hands on a juicer (which I’ll tell you more about tomorrow). It definitely does the trick, but now that I’ve done it both ways I can say for sure that it’s significantly messier and more exerting than using a juicer.
And, since you’ve got to add some water or other liquid to make the ingredient(s) processable, the end product doesn’t come out as pure or potent as it does in a juicer. Net net, a good option if you don’t have one, but not really the best one.
A couple of notes on juicing:
- It’s best to juice the highest quality produce possible—go for organic or pesticide-free since you’re consuming the outside and inside of the fruit or veggie.
- Fresh juice is best enjoyed right away. The nutrients in your juice begin degrading right away, as does its fridge-life. You could refrigerate and sip on a juice for about 24 hours, but don’t plan on keeping it any longer than that unless you freeze it.
- The most nutrient-rich leafy greens like kale, collards, and dandelion can make a very bitter juice. Try adding a lemon or lime, or other counters against the bitterness like ginger or cranberry.
- Add other goodies to your juice. Any liquid or powder nutrients, flax or other oils or dried spices and herbs can make great additions to a fresh juice.
Give it a try, and if juicing becomes a regular part of your kitchen routine, tune back in tomorrow to get the low-down on juicers.