Whatever happened to frozen orange-juice concentrate? Back in the day the stuff was everywhere—and your own family's freezer was likely stocked with it—but now? If it seems to have vanished, that's not just your imagination. Frozen OJ is still around, but it's increasingly harder to find. Lower orange-harvest yields, and less demand for orange juice in general, have kicked the frozen concentrated kind to the bottom of the list of what the citrus industry is focusing on now.
As the Wall Street Journal reports in an article this week, “Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast."
"Now, the 1.4 million gallons of frozen concentrate that Americans drink each month pales in comparison to the 19.1 million gallons of fresh juice consumed each month, Nielsen said," as the WSJ article reports. For those of us still drinking orange juice, we tend to be drawn to products labeled “fresh squeezed,” or “not from concentrate,” and the canned stuff feels somehow less authentic than the kind sold in cartons and plastic jugs.
But as the New Yorker reported a while back in this article on the ubiquitous, mass-produced, "not-from-concentrate" juice at the supermarket, that stuff isn't nearly as straightforward as it sounds; for instance, it can be full of head-scratchingly confusing ingredients like "flavor packs."
If you compare frozen concentrate to raw orange juice, the nutrition labels can look identical. (In both versions, not just the frozen stuff, a potential red-flag to watch out for is the added sugar.) Nothing quite beats the truly pure, fresh-squeezed orange juice—especially the homemade kind, or the local small-batch varieties. But if you ever feel a wave of nostalgia for the frozen orange goo of yore, there are some legit reasons to give those tubes some love every now and then—while they still exist, anyway: a lower carbon footprint (less packaging), a relatively friendly price point, and endless ways to use them in slushies, desserts and beyond.
For instance, use frozen OJ to make a fabulous Orange Julius copycat, like this one from PipandDebby (pictured above): all you need besides the frozen canned juice is milk, sugar, vanilla and ice. Or try this Orange Julius riff from The Kitchn. And of course, boozy slushies: Check out this vintage Bon Appetit recipe for a classy version made with frozen OJ, vodka and Grand Marnier. You can also use the frozen stuff to make a DIY orange creamsicle, as in this recipe (just add milk, vanilla ice cream and vanilla). Or for a truly old-school experience, eat a spoonful of that ice-cold, extra-sweet orange stuff straight out of the tube.
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