Ask any of my coworkers and they’ll say I’m a pretty healthy eater. In fact, several of the test cooks have coined my lunch break as official “salad time,” where I piece together produce, nuts, and citrus I’ve brought from home with any leftover ingredients I can scrounge up from the test kitchen.
In the early days, part of my job at America’s Test Kitchen was to shop on a daily basis out in Brookline’s local food scene. I visited grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and butcher shops (to name a few), and I was in charge of bringing those ingredients in for recipe testing. (This was the point in time where “salad time” was born—as I’d shop, I’d pick up one or two fresh ingredients each day to add to my midday fix.)
Though I’ve been out of that game for some time now, I still love to roam the produce aisles of grocery and specialty stores. This is why I was so excited to find Whole Foods’ new line of raw juices from BluePrintCleanse, a New York City-based online company that recently extended their business to the store’s nationwide shelves. I’d fallen in love with the juice stands in NYC during my time as a graduate student on the Upper West Side and was thrilled that natural, raw drinks had finally made their way to my backyard.
With renewed inspiration, I recalled recent equipment tests we ran juicing kale and apples into several brands of electric juicers in the test kitchen. All I needed was a juicer of my own and a trip to the Thursday farmers’ market, and I was on my way to recreating my favorite treat.
Setting Up the Bar
To build your juice bar, it’s best to pick a small “bar-like” table that can fit your cutting board, glassware, and juicer. It’s also nice to pick one that has shelving to store equipment you’ll need—extra cutting boards, towels, salad spinner, and mesh strainer, for example. If I’m planning to make more than one serving, I’ll pull out a pitcher from my cabinet and add a bundle of fresh herbs to some water for garnishing and decor. Lastly, I like to position the bar near the kitchen so that it’s not too far away from the sink where I need to clean my ingredients.
I don’t have an outlet on the side of the wall where the bar is located, so I just connect the plug to the same outlet we use for other electric appliances.
In New York, you’ll see citrus juice extractors, hydraulic presses, and other fancy juicing equipment. Commercial electric juicers of this kind essentially work by spinning and pressing (masticating) or by grinding and spinning (centrifugal) ingredients to extract their juice.
I wanted a juicer that would easily make juice from a variety of vegetables and fruits (not just citrus), so I opted for an electric choice that would meet my juicing needs: the Test Kitchen winner, the Breville Juice Fountain Plus.
Using Your Garden
You can really make any fruit or vegetable into a juice: The key is to know what quantity to use and how to prepare it for your machine. Depending on their water content, certain vegetables will extract more or less juice than others. Cucumbers are about 95% water, as is watermelon, so you’ll use less of those ingredients than you would, say, a leafy vegetable like kale or spinach. Any fresh produce you buy from the grocery store should be washed and rinsed properly, but for juicing, it is essential to follow this process carefully since there is no cooking—and thus, bacteria killing—involved. I find using a salad spinner works well for lettuce, spinach, kale and other leafy greens, herbs, and berries; rinsing and drying with a paper towel is helpful for dirt-prone beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes. Sometimes I buy organic, other times I don’t—it really depends on the ingredient I’m using. Rule of thumb: If it doesn’t look and smell good, don’t juice it.
It’s important to have all of your ingredients ready before you start juicing. The outer rind, peels, and pits from stone fruits, ginger, and citrus must be removed prior to juicing; these outer layers are too hard for the juicer to process and can actually jam the blade and break the machine.
Next you’ll want to portion your ingredients to fit the size of the feeding tube. I like to quarter apples, halve thinner vegetables like celery stalks, and bundle herbs. Not only does this ensure you don’t overwork the machine, but it enables the grinding mechanism to extract the most juice possible.
I like to arrange prepped ingredients on my cutting board, starting with softer fruit on low speed and increasing to high for more fibrous veggies.
Depending on your machine you might want to strain your juice after it’s made. The by-product of fast juice extraction is foam—kind of like pulp. If you don’t care for it, simply use the separator that came with your machine, or if it didn’t come with one, a fine-mesh strainer will work just fine. It’s really up to your own taste.
You can use any of the stuff left over after the juicing process (the skin of fruits, leaves, seeds, stems, etc.) and put it toward a great compost for your garden or yard.
It’s best to consume your juice within 20 minutes of making it, but I’ve found that a mason jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid will preserve the juice for up to 2-3 days in your fridge.
In the summer, I opt for the simple route—my juice poured over a tall glass of crushed ice, garnished with one of the herbs I used to make it. Feel free to freeze different combinations into popsicles, or stir them into homemade drink mixes, vinaigrettes, or soups. A juice bar is a great way to entertain as well.
What’s your take on raw juices or juicing methods? Share your stories or questions for Leah in the comments.