One of the best ways to get more fruits and vegetables into kids’ diets is to turn them into brightly colored, flavorful juices. Sugar and preservative-laden store-bought fruit juice drinks can be just as unhealthy as the average soft drink, and may be made from genetically-modified produce. If you’re determined to know exactly where the juice your children drink comes from, there’s no better way to find the peace of mind you’re looking for than to juice locally-grown, in-season produce from a farmers’ market or community-supported agricultural program. However, electric juicers can be prohibitively expensive and take up quite a bit of cabinet or counter space, especially for a machine that only serves one dedicated purpose. Instead of shelling out big bucks for a top-of-the-line juicer, you might find that you’re just as happy with juice extracted using a blender or food processor, and a few relatively inexpensive accessories. After thoroughly washing and chopping your produce into manageable pieces, here are three ways you can turn them into delicious and nutritious juice.
The Blender Method
To make fresh juice with the blender you already have, you’ll also need a rubber spatula, containers and fine mesh bags. Nut milk bags or cheesecloth work best, but you may find other options that suit your needs in a local store. Puree your chosen selection of fruits and vegetables, adding a scant ¼ cup of water if necessary. Scrape the sides of your blender carafe down with the rubber spatula between pulses to ensure that no large pieces remain. When the puree is free of chunks, scrape it into the mesh bags or cheesecloth. With freshly-washed hands, squeeze the bags or cloth over a container until all fluids are separated from the pulp. Serve your freshly extracted juice over ice if you prefer it chilled, but enjoy it as soon as possible. Extended storage will dissipate many of the more fragile nutrients.
The Potato Ricer Method
If you don’t have a potato ricer on-hand, they’re relatively inexpensive and can serve more than one purpose in the kitchen, making it a worthwhile investment. They also require very little storage space, a major plus in cluttered kitchens. To make fresh fruit and vegetable juices with your potato ricer, use a blender or food processor to puree your produce to a smooth, manageable pulp. If necessary, add no more than a ¼ cup of water to the blender carafe or processor chamber to facilitate the puree, then strain the pulp through a potato ricer. The openings will allow trace amounts of pulp to escape, but that amount is usually negligible and will keep your hands out of the process, unlike the cheesecloth method that requires manual squeezing for extraction.
The Food Mill Method
Fresh, ripe berries and homegrown tomatoes are bursting with flavor, but they’re also chock full of seeds that can be difficult to remove. Roughly chopping softer, juicier produce like tomatoes and blackberries and processing with a manually-powered food mill will separate all of the seeds, stems and skins from the juice, leaving a dry pulp inside the mill and a high yield of fresh juice in the container below. A food mill can also extract the juices from produce that’s been pureed in a blender or food processor, but it does require a bit of patience and plenty of elbow grease to get the job done.
These are just a few of the ways that you can create fresh, nutritious and delicious juices with equipment you already have or that requires minimal up-front investment. Use your imagination, and look around your kitchen for any other gadgets that might do the job. With a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking, you may be able to juice the season’s bounty without buying a single new tool. Don’t toss out the pulp left behind, either. It does still contain plenty of nutrients, and virtually all of the fiber. Integrating the pulp into quick breads (think zucchini bread), soups and stews and other recipes allows you to minimize waste dramatically and develop some interesting recipes along the way.