Q: Can you tell me the differences between the various kinds of juices on the market?
A: As you know, not all juices are created equal. If you don't want to concentrate all your strength on choosing a juice, the information below will help make the choice easier:
- "100% Pure" or "100% Juice": Guarantees only 100 percent fruit juice, complete with all its nutrients. If it's not there, it's not all juice.
- "Cocktail," "Punch," "Drink," "Beverage": Terms which signify diluted juice containing less than 100 percent juice, often with added sweeteners.
- Fresh squeezed juice: Squeezed from fresh fruit. It is not pasteurized and is usually in the produce or dairy section of the grocery store.
- From concentrate: Water is removed from whole juice to make concentrate; then water is added back to reconstitute to 100 percent juice or to diluted juice.
- Not from concentrate: Juice that has never been concentrated.
- Fresh frozen: Freshly squeezed, and packaged and frozen without pasteurization or further processing. It is usually sold in plastic bottles in the frozen food section of the grocery store and is ready to drink after thawing.
- Juice on unrefrigerated shelves: Shelf-stable product usually found with canned and bottled juices on unrefrigerated shelves of your store. It is pasteurized juice, or diluted juice, often from concentrate, packaged in sterilized containers.
- Canned juice: Heated and sealed in cans to provide extended shelf life of more than one year.
Q: How do you freeze apple slices?
A: With the abundance of apples produced this year, freezing apple slices to use when the snow flies is a great idea. Here are the recommendations:
Freeze only up to 2 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer capacity per day. Syrup pack is preferred for apples to be used for uncooked desserts or fruit cocktail. A sugar or dry pack is good for pie making.
Select full-flavored apples that are crisp and firm, not mealy in texture. Wash, peel and core. Slice the medium apples into twelfths, the large ones into sixteenths.
For a syrup pack: Use a chilled 40-percent syrup. Dissolve 2 3/4 cups of sugar in 4 cups of lukewarm water, mixing until the solution is clear. Chill. To prevent browning, add 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) of ascorbic acid to each quart of syrup.
Slice the apples into the syrup in a container starting with a 1/2 cup of syrup for each pint of apples. Fill pint- or quart-size freezer bags to a level of 3 to 4 inches from the tops, add the syrup if needed to cover the apples, squeeze out the air, seal and label.
For a sugar pack: To prevent darkening, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) of ascorbic acid in 3 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle over the fruit. Mix 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 quart (1 1/4 pounds) of fruit. Fill freezer bags to a level of 3 to 4 inches from the tops, squeeze out the air, seal and label.
For a dry/tray pack: Follow the directions for a sugar pack, omitting the sugar. Treated apple slices also can be frozen first on a tray and then packed into containers as soon as they are frozen.
Q: How can candy be sugar free?
A: For years now, food manufacturers have developed sugar-free alternatives for many foods, including candy. Examples include sugarless gum, dietetic candy, breath mints and many sugarless medicines. While these items are sugar-free, they still contain some calories. Sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol provide 1.6 to 3 calories per gram as compared to 4 calories per gram from sucrose. They do not cause cavities because the bacteria that cause cavities cannot digest them.
Typically, the components used to make candies sugar-free are called sugar alcohols. Some are found naturally in foods, but many are made by hydrogenating sugars. The sugar alcohols sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol are derived from sucrose, mannose, maltose and xylose respectively.
These ingredients are primarily available to food manufacturers. One drawback to sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, are that they absorb slowly in the small intestine. This can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas. Therefore, foods cannot contain more than 30 grams of sorbitol.
Here's where sugar alcohols can be found in candy:
- Sorbitol: Chewing gum, tablet-type candy
- Mannitol: Dusting agent for chewing gum, in tablet-type candy, in chocolate, hard candy, and as a release agent for molded gelled candy
- Maltitol: Chocolates and caramels
- Xylitol: Provides cooling effect in mints, chewing gum, some hard and soft candy
- Lactitol: Improves shelf life and enhances flavors, used in chocolates, soft and hard candy
- Isomalt: Inhibits moisture absorption, found in chocolate, hard candy, caramel, chewing gum, and tablet-type candy
Q: What are pomegranates?
A: Pomegranates are native to Iran and to northern India. Other growing regions include Bermuda, Bahamas and many Arabic countries. In North America, they are grown in Florida and California. They date back to biblical times.
Pomegranates look somewhat like an apple on the outside. They range in size from 2 1/2 to 5 inches wide. The inside is separated by membranous walls and white spongy tissue to make compartments packed with transparent sacs filled with tart, flavorful, fleshy, juicy, red, pink or whitish pulp. In each sac, there is one white or red, angular, soft or hard seed. The seeds make up about 52 percent of the weight of the whole fruit.
Once picked, the fruit is stored at refrigeration temperatures and 80 percent to 85 percent humidity. During storage, the fruit becomes juicier and more flavorful. Pomegranates can be eaten as fruit, used as a garnish on sweet and savory dishes, or pressed to extract the juice. They are rich in potassium and contain a fair amount of vitamin C. They have a sweet-sour flavor and ruby color.
To prepare, cut off the crown and gently scoop out some of the center white core with a spoon. Score just through the outer rind, marking the fruit into quarters. Place your thumb in the center of the core and gently pull apart the sections. Peel away the white pith and discard. Turn the skin inside out and pop out the seeds. To separate the seeds from any remaining pith, place sections of pomegranate in a bowl of cold water and gently swish around. The seeds will sink to the bottom while the white pieces float to the top.
The juice is extracted by using a kitchen juicer or reaming the halved fruits on an orange juice squeezer. Or, warm the fruit slightly in the microwave and roll it between your hands to soften. Cut a hole in the stem end and place it over a glass. Let the juice run out, squeezing the fruit to extract it. The juice can be used to make jelly or sorbet, flavor lemonade or baked apples, and used in place of a citrus juice in marinades for meat and poultry. It is also used to make grenadine and can be converted into wine. The seeds are used primarily as a garnish. Sprinkle on top of Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus or rice pilaf.