I didn’t grow up in a home that juiced oranges for breakfast every day. I wasn’t a fan of juice in the first place, except for a brief obsession with pink grapefruit juice in high school, until I realized that I should probably be saving those calories for something a bit more satisfying. The first time I used a mechanical juicer while was working in a restaurant. During my first week or two at Clio I was taken down the prep kitchen in the basement and introduced to the Champion juicer. It was a large, white, heavy piece of equipment. Given the fact that I only had to juice a couple of yellow peppers it seemed a bit intimidating. I also wondered how long it would take me to clean it when I was done. Then I tasted the pepper juice that emerged from its belly and I understood why it was there. That juice was the sweet essence of yellow peppers, vibrant, flavorful, and somehow alive on my tongue. The cleaning process was easier than expected and just like that, the juicer became an irreplaceable staple in my batterie de cuisine. In that kitchen we used the pepper juice, slightly reduced, as the basis for vinaigrette. In our kitchen juice is just the starting point. Juice is so much more than just something to pour into a glass. It’s a magic elixir that will make all your dishes into something special.
Juice is by definition a fluid naturally contained in plant or animal tissue. A juicer is a machine that facilitates the extraction of this liquid by breaking down fibers and cell walls, which allows the liquid to seep out of the structure. There are three basic types of juicers on the market. Centrifugal juicers are the least expensive. They are quick and relatively efficient to use. Centrifugal juicers contain flat blades resting at the bottom of a circular basket. The fruits or vegetables to be used are placed in the basket and the unit spins forcing the ingredients against the blades, which shreds them. The shredded pieces are then forced outwards to press against the sides of the basket while the juice falls through the holes in the basket and are drained from the machine using a spout. The downside to using a centrifugal juicer is that they are noisy, the quick speeds of the motor tend to heat up the juice, the spinning action introduces oxygen which can destroy nutrients and reduce the shelf life of the juice, and they are less effective with leafy vegetables and herbs. They are the economical choice for small quantities of juices that will be used immediately.
Masticating juicers work by using a slowly rotating auger to chew or crush the produce into small pieces. This process breaks down the fibers and cell walls of the fruits and vegetables to help release the juice. The chewed pieces are pressed against a mesh strainer and separated into juice and pulp. The two products are ejected from the machine separately. Most people simply use the juice and throw the pulp away, although in many cases the pulp can be utilized in recipes and treated as an ingredient on its own. Masticating juicers produce more juice than centrifugal juicers. The mastication process is much slower and introduces less oxygen than that of the centrifugal juicer. It produces less foam and oxidation, which in turn preserves more live enzymes and nutrients in the finished product.
The gold standard in masticating juicers is the twin gear or triturating juicer. They produce the highest yield and the most nutritional juice. The process works at the same speed as a masticating juicer. Instead of using a single auger, the triturating juicer has two stainless steel gears in very close proximity. The gears turn in towards each other and slowly crush the produce between them. As with the masticating juicer, the ingredients are then pressed through a screen and the juice and pulp are ejected separately. They are the most expensive juicers, in return they produce the highest quality and yield and have the ability to juice almost anything.
Both types of masticating juicers can be used to make things other than juice. They are very effective at pureeing ingredients and allow for attachments. Because of this you can make soymilk, baby foods, pastas, and grind meats, nuts, and spices. Even if you never make anything other than juice, a juicer would still be a great addition to the kitchen of any serious cook. The possibilities are endless. You can play around with juicing non-traditional fruits and vegetables and you can use the juices to flavor many different kinds of recipes from soups and braises to cakes and breads.
While the juice is the focal point, the pulp manufactured as a by-product during the juicing process creates some interesting possibilities, either on its own or combined with the juice. The grinding process creates a unique texture, especially when working with root vegetables. One of our favorite fall/winter recipes is a parsnip porridge made by combining the juice and the pulp of this sweet root vegetable and stewing it down to a delicious, velvety bowl of goodness.
Parsnip Porridge with Black Truffle
2.75 pounds/1.25 kilograms parsnips
16 ounces/460 grams heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon/4.5 grams salt
1.75 ounces/50grams black truffle
Armando Manni olive oil
Tasmanian pepper in a mill
Preheat the oven to 170°F (75°C)
Wash the parsnips thoroughly. Cut the tip and top off the parsnip and peel them. Put the peels and the trimmings into a medium sized pot and cover with the cream. Use a masticating juicer to juice and run the parsnips through twice. Reserve the pulp and add the juice into the pot with the cream and the parsnip peelings. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat, cook for five minutes, turn off the heat, and cover the pot. Let the liquid infuse for twenty minutes. Set up an ice bath. Strain the cream through a fine mesh strainer. Add the salt, cool the parsnip cream down in the ice bath, and refrigerate.
Lay the parsnip pulp on a silicone lined sheet pan. Spread the pulp evenly out in the pan and then place in the oven. Bake the parsnip pulp until it is completely dry, about 2 to 3 hours. Stir the pulp every thirty minutes. The parsnip will be dry and crumbly and a golden brown when it is finished. Remove the parsnip pulp from the oven and let it cool. When the parsnip pulp is cool, place it in a blender, and pulverize it until it resembles a course ground polenta. When the parsnip pulp is ground, add it to the cooled parsnip cream. Stir the mixture and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
Transferthe parsnip porridge into a medium sized pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. When it is hot, spoon equal portions into serving bowls. Shave three large slices of truffle over each dish. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil over each serving and grind the Tasmanian pepper over each dish. Serve immediately.