Ames and I are both fairly easygoing and don’t turn our noses up to many things. If there is one thing we are persnickety about though, it’s Orange Juice. You know the stuff they serve at the continental breakfast buffets at most hotels? Horrible. Almost every single OJ available the grocery store? Blech! Even among the “Not from Concentrate, Fresh Squeezed, 100% Juice” varieties, there are very few products that we actually enjoy. Why do we hold such strong opinions over something so trivial as a morning beverage? Location. Location. Location.
We both grew up in a little-known city on the East coast of Florida called Vero Beach. The main reasons Vero exists are tourism, retirees, and citrus. Our beaches are beautiful, but most tourists come because they’re less crowded – which is why you’ve still never heard of it. Retirees give a boost to the local economy, but don’t make it an exciting place to grow up – unless you enjoy golf & shuffleboard. The real reason I’m proud to be from Vero Beach is because we have the best citrus in the world. That’s right California, you’ve got nuthin’ on our juicy fruits. While you’ve probably never heard of Vero Beach Citrus, you may have seen Indian River Fruit before. Vero is in the heart of Indian River County, and Indian River County is to Citrus what Napa Valley is to wine.
So yes, Amy and I have deep rooted & geographically influenced opinions about OJ and we both strongly agree that the best orange juice on the planet comes from one place: Hale Groves. Hale Groves’ orange juice is like heaven in a cup. It’s so good that they drive traffic to their retail store with signs that say “Free Orange Juice”. They have fountains inside that are constantly flowing with ice-cold, fresh-squeezed OJ. Beware though, for if you partake, you will leave with a gallon of the stuff and will never look at OJ the same again. The only problem with Hale Groves OJ is that their 1 store (they had several when we were growing up) is the only place you can buy it.
Living in South Carolina, it’s hard to find a comparable substitute for Hale Groves’ orange juice. We used to buy Indian River Select’s 100% Valencia Orange Juice which is available at several grocery stores. It’s no Hale OJ, but the taste was as close as we could find….until this week. Publix, a Florida-based grocery chain, recently started carrying Natalie’s Orchid Island Orange Juice so we decided to give it a try. Wow! The orange juice snobs were impressed! On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d give it a 9½. After reading through their “our juice” page, it’s easy to see why. They’re all about the pulp:
Oddly enough, a good indication that your juice is Fresh Squeezed is to observe some separation. Technically speaking, Fresh Squeezed juice separates because of the interaction between enzymes in the fruit and the pectin in the juice. When the juice is pasteurized or concentrated, the heat neutralizes enzymes, thus preventing separation. By allowing the enzymes to stay in their natural state, Fresh Squeezed juice tastes great and gives it the “FRESH” taste customers love.
Tropicana and other national brands try hard to make good, fresh juices but they rely on some pretty intense pasteurization processes to extend shelf life. As a spoiled Vero Beach native, the “Pure Premium” OJ simply doesn’t cut it. Until the next time we make it home and get our Hale Groves fix, we’ll probably be buying Natalie’s.