Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Case for Juicing and Using Everything

This is going to seem like a left-field post. The reason? It is :).

For those who are not aware, I am fairly active on a site called Quora. Admittedly, I have a few software testing questions I have answered but most of my conversations tend to revolve around music, fitness, snow sports, and nutrition. Thus today, I had a chance to answer a question related to something I do on a regular basis, which is "juicing".

For context, here's the original question:

Do smoothies kill the nutrients of fruit and Veg because it’s blended?

My answer actually goes a bit outside of what was asked but in this time of economic uncertainty, shelter at home orders, fears of viral contagion, and a desire to get some nutritional and possible immune system boost (caveat: I make no such claims that what I will suggest will necessarily do that but I do use it as an overall "healthy" approach to eating) as well as a desire to minimize food waste.

Thus to expand on that, I thought I'd talk a bit more at length about the things I do, how you might be able to incorporate them into your daily routine, and why I think it's valuable and ultimately a better use of food items in the long run.

For starters, I have a masticating juicer. It works by pressing foods into a spinning set of prongs/teeth that shred up the food items into fine particles and through a fine mesh screen with centrifugal/centripetal forces applied separate out the liquid and finer particulate components into a juice. The remaining larger pieces of fruit/vegetable pulp are hurled back into a receptacle where it fills and needs to be emptied from time to time. Many people discard this pulp. My main part of this post is to encourage people to not do that. It is possible to use this pulp in a variety of ways.

Let's talk about the juices I most commonly make. I typically order, in normal times, large quantities of apples, pears, carrots, parsnips, radishes, spinach leaves, collard greens, kale leaves, cabbage leaves, and ginger. The availability of each varies by time of year but again, in normal times, I have been able to get most of these frequently in large enough batches to make one or two liters of each juice at any given time. I pour these juices into mason jar bottles and I grab one or two of these every day to snack on, typically unfiltered and some of that pulpy goodness awash in the juice (yum!).

What is often not addressed is what is left over after this process is done, which can be several pounds of the pulp of fruit and vegetables. Depending on what you are juicing, this pulp can be easy to use or it can be challenging to use. It depends a lot on the care you take to prep what you are going to juice. Carrot pulp is easily usable in other things. Shredded ginger is a little trickier but still usable. Apple and pair pulp are easily used to make jams, jellies and fruit butter provided you've taken care to remove the seeds and woodier parts that appear from time to time.

Here are some easy examples of how I get some extra mileage out of foods that the typical juicer might discard.

* when you juice apples or pears, take the cores out first so that you capture the seeds in the core. take those cores and put them in water and boil them down. What you get is a rich pectin you can mix into the cleaner pulp after juicing that is excellent for helping to set up jams, jellies and fruit butter. The fruit pulp itself can also be boiled down and strained through a food mill to get the consistency you want for its intended destination. I like to use these as fillings for pancakes and crepes as well.

* carrot pulp is easy to use and mix into making things like carrot cake, carrot muffins, and as an additional binder for expanding ground beef in meatloaf if that's your thing. It also blends greatly with shredded onions and the pulp from celery juice to make a mirepoix that literally disappears into the dish but contains all of the flavors.

* greens of many stripes make for a finely shredded leaf after juicing. These leaves are great for mixing in with eggs to make both omelets and a Korean style of vegetable pancake base. They can also be cooked in water and blended up with an immersion blender to make for a flavorful soup base.

* sweet potatoes make for an interesting juice component that I often mix with other vegetable juices to cut their "earthy" taste. The leftover fiber makes for a great filling for dumplings and you can make a variation of latkes with the pulp as well.

* one of my favorite items to juice, also to help with cutting the strong earthy flavor of green juices, is ginger. Ginger is a challenge to peel and often you lose a lot of the ginger in the peeling process. To that end, what I do is I boil the ginger first to soften it, then I run it through the juicer to capture the first and strongest batch of juice. I filter that first pass of juice through cheesecloth and the leftover particulates I skim off and boil with lemon juice to make a high acid paste that I can then bottle and keep shelf-stable for up to 18 months. It makes for a great addition to Asian-style stir fry dishes :). The leftover pulp I then put into four cups of water and boil down again until I get a fairly viscous liquid. I put that into another layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag and let the liquid strain. That remainder liquid makes for a  magnificent base to make ginger beer/ginger tonic if so inclined. The last of the fiber I then discard, though I'm totally open to ideas as to how to use it :).

Both sets of my grandparents lived through the Great Depression and I heard a lot about that time from them as I was growing up. It colored their everyday lives all the way up until their deaths and all four of them had a similar philosophy when it came to doing anything with any resource. Treat it with care, use it to its maximum extent, and be creative wherever possible. A little poem I heard all the time from my maternal grandmother was:

"Use it up, wear it out. 
Make it work or do without"

These ideas, I hope, might be interesting to others and may, perhaps, help us to stretch our food dollars as far as possible and, most important to me, not waste what we buy. If you have a favorite way to use your leftover pulp from juicing, please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you do with it.

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