What Is Concentrated Juice?
When shopping the juice section of grocery aisles, whether refrigerated, dry, or frozen, the word concentrate is often on the label. Concentrated juice is most often seen on cans of lemonade slush in the frozen section of the grocery stores. Bottled juice also frequently uses “made from concentrate” or “not made from concentrate” on the label. If you’re wondering what concentrated juice is, it’s simply juice with a large portion of the water removed. Juice can concentrate multiple times to lower the water content further.
Less water and higher juice content create a product that retains its original qualities when thawed. Concentrating juice also extends the time juice can be frozen while maintaining the flavor. Then, when you’re ready to use the juice from concentrate, all that’s required is to add some of the water back. The result is a juice that tastes as if you squeezed it that day. While concentrated juice is regularly available now, that wasn’t always the case.
A Brief History of Concentrated Juice
Concentrating juice was a solution to preserve frozen juice shipped to locations far away from citrus groves. During transit, the frozen juice would begin to separate in the can. By the time it reached consumers and thawed at home, it resembled a soupy mess. What inevitably led to the discovery of concentrating juice was World War II. The US Army needed to find a way to supply soldiers with orange juice for Vitamin C. In 1942, the US Army quartermaster offered a contract to anymore that could find a solution.
In 1945, the United States Department of Agriculture discovered a way to concentrate juice at low temperatures. Richard Stetson Mores applied his business and science background to package and distribute concentrated juice. In that same year, the Florida Foods Corporation was established to fulfill the manufacturing and shipping. In 1946 Florida Foods changed its name to Vacuum Foods Corporation. Their product was sold under the name Minute Maid, later becoming the company we know today. For a complete history, head on over to time.
Can Juice be Concentrated at Home?
There are a few scenarios where you may want to concentrate juice at home. Maybe you have citrus trees on your property but can’t access that juice outside of harvesting season. You may have bought too many oranges at that fantastic price, or maybe you want specialty juices not offered in concentrate. Blood oranges juice is not available in concentrate, which makes excellent Blood Orange Mimosas! Making concentrated juice at home is a simple process but does require time and patience. Home concentrating requires freezing and then slowly thawing juice to separate the juice and water. I know it sounds like the juice will melt without separating, but there’s some science behind it.
Juice's Freezing Temperature
Juice freezes at a lower temperature, about 29 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to water’s 32 degrees freezing temp. Because of the different freezing temperatures, the juice will thaw quicker than water. If you’ve ever made bread at home that requires multiple proofs, some of them overnight, this will be a walk in the park. The good thing about juice concentration is that you can pause the process if you need to walk away. I’ll go over what to do should that happen to you later in the article. The best way to separate the juice is with two glass bottles and good ol’ gravity.
First, Freeze the Juice in a Narrow-Mouthed Bottle
If you have a narrow-mouthed bottle, this will help make the concentration process more straightforward—the reason is that the juice needs to freeze and then thaw. The best way to melt and separate the juice is by suspending the bottle upside down. A narrow-mouthed bottle helps in three ways:
- The ice cube will shrink and slide down the bottle as the juice melts. The narrow opening acts to hold the ice higher in the bottle, allowing the liquid to continue to separate.
- The bottle with the frozen juice will rest upside-down in a wide-mouthed bottle. The narrow neck allows the bottle to sit lower in the bottle and easily catch the juice.
- The narrow opening also allows the bottle to sit lower in the lower bottle. This helps balance the weight of the two jars, lowering the risk of it tipping over.
When selecting a jar, be sure to choose a size that leaves enough air for the ice to swell. Once the juice has been transferred to the jar and sealed, place the jar in your freezer upright. Once the liquid has frozen solid, remove the lid and flip the bottle upside down. Place the bottle inside of the wide-mouth bottle.
Allow the Juice to Drip Until the Color Lightens
Time and patience are essential once the bottle with frozen juice is upside down. The good news is the condensing bottle is a culinary version of a lava lamp at your desk for those who work at home. Maybe just not right next to your laptop. It will take about a half-hour for drips to steadily drop down into the lower bottle, depending on the amount of juice and size of the bottle. When drops of juice start to fall every 10 seconds, keep an eye on the color.
Once the drops lose their color and appear transparent, remove the frozen juice. The remaining ice is mostly water that the citrus has permanently colored with traces of pulp. The ice will look like a hardened slushy at this stage. You can’t use it for concentrating purposes, even though the ice does have flavor. If you’d still like to use this portion, you can divide it into an ice tray once thawed, refreeze the liquid, and add it to smoothies or even frozen margaritas!
If you need to walk away for an extended time during the process, you can place the juice bottle back in the freezer. If you are back in a few hours, you can keep the juice catcher in the fridge sealed with a lid. If you will be resuming later, transfer the juice to an ice-cube tray and freeze the concentrated juice. Once frozen, transfer them to an air-tight container. Once you are ready to continue, remove the juice bottle from the freezer and resume the thawing process.
Clarifying and Storing Concentrated Juice
After concentrating your juice, there are two options, depending on how ambitious you are. If you don’t have the time for a second concentration or know you will use the juice within six months, you can freeze your juice after the first concentration. Un-concentrated juice can stay fresh for 3 to 4 months if stored frozen in an air-tight container. I’ll add three months to the frozen shelf life for each concentration, up to a year from when initially squeezed. How long you wish to keep the juice will decide whether to concentrate again or not.
Melt the remaining ice and refreeze it for later use or discard it. If concentrating your juice a second time, fill the bottle and freeze it again. Repeat the process in the section above, allowing the frozen juice to drip down again and remove even more water. If you’re wondering why you’d want to concentrate a second time, it all comes down to the freshness. The lower the water content, the closer the taste and quality will be to freshly squeezed once thawed. The water content is what speeds up the loss of flavor.
Using Concentrated Juice at Home
Just like dried mushrooms, concentrated juice requires reconstituting before use. Reconstitution replaces the extracted water, restoring the juice to its original strength. A general guide for how much water to add is three parts water to one part juice. For example, if you need a cup of juice, use 1/4 cup of concentrated liquid and 3/4 cup water. Test the ratio to see if the taste is too strong. If it is too strong, add water in small amounts until reaching your preferred strength. Once reconstituted, you can add juice to any recipe calling for fresh juice. You may not concentrate juice at home often, but knowing how to can come in handy down the road!