Okay, okay, … anyone that knows me knows that I’m a HUGE proponent of fresh juices and ingredients (it’s kind of my mantra) and I still am. BUT, I also want to make an argument for NOT using fresh-squeezed juices and store-bought fruit and de-bunking a few myths. I have quite a bit to say on this subject, so I’m dividing this topic into three different blog posts.
FRESH IS NOT ALWAYS BEST
Wow- I can't believe I actually wrote those words, as "fresh" has and always will my thing. Fresh is usually the best ... but not all the time. Let's take blueberries, for example. I would challenge anyone to go to your local grocery store, today, and buy a pint of blueberries. And, while you’re there, buy some frozen blueberries in the freezer section. Let them thaw and taste them side by side. Which one has a stronger, sweeter blueberry taste? Don’t go by looks, just by flavor. More likely than not, the frozen version will win every time. Why? Because they pick the blueberries at the peak of season and flash freeze them, holding onto the integrity of their flavor. Fresh blueberries can be a crap-shoot, even from week to week. Some weeks they are amazingly sweet and juicy. Other weeks, they may be smaller, a little shriveled and with little to no flavor.
If you own your own bar or have a lead mixologist that really understands flavor and balance and has the skill and talent to change the menu on a weekly basis and make a judgement call (blueberries aren’t good today, so we’re going to go with another fruit), then go for it. Or, if you have access to local farms and can make those decisions on a weekly or daily basis, that’s awesome. But, for multi-unit accounts, that’s a luxury you just don’t have. There are many companies that make fantastic purees and syrups using fresh fruits – like Napa Valley Perfect Puree, or Monin or RE’AL. But, there is no way to use 100% fresh ingredients, all of the time and have it be consistent in flavor.
Coincidentally, NPR just did a piece on "what is better - fresh or frozen?" You can check it out here.
So, what to do? Customers are demanding that fresh ingredients be used - its health halo, visual appeal, etc. I’m all about incorporating fresh fruit, even as just a visual cue (seeing a piece of fresh fruit on top of drink, looks amazing. People start tasting with their eyes and nose first.)
Fresh Blending is a combination of fresh ingredients enhanced with IQF ingredients, purees, syrups, etc. I like to use both. (See my other Blog Post, Watermelon, as an example with an actual recipe.)
Before we start diving into Fresh vs. Other, we need to define it. I think that’s a word that gets tossed around a lot pretty freely, and as a consultant for almost 20 years, I’ve come to know that many people have different definitions of “fresh”. I once was consulting for a National Account where I was recommending they bring in fresh ingredients. I was corrected and told “we already use fresh ingredients” and she pointed to a bottle of a shelf-stable peach drink mix. (This peach drink mix had pieces of peach fruit in it, so to her, this was “fresh”.) And, when I said, “I meant, fresh fruit and fresh juices”. She said, “We do use fresh fruit. I’ll show you.” She left and came back with a tub of frozen strawberries with added sugar and citric acid and said, “We puree these strawberries for our fresh strawberry puree.”
Fresh, as I define it, means directly from the fruit or vegetable. You can do something to it - bake it, saute it, freeze it, puree it, juice it - but that's it, it's a fresh item that came from a produce purveyor. If you ARE making it in-house, I would add also add pre-fix, describing how it was prepared in-house. For example, “house-made ginger beer” or “hand-squeezed lime juice”, “muddled strawberries.” If you are also buying from a local source (or farm), that can be highlighted too.
FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE vs. LIGHTLY PASTEURIZED vs. SHELF STABLE
When it comes to juices, I have a lot of opinions on what the best route to take is, but this is one where my opinion is based on context. While I think fresh hand-squeezed lime juice is the best you can do, I don't recommend that for National Accounts or High Volume accounts. I break this down in another blog post, "To Squeeze or Not to Squeeze", getting into all of the pro's & cons, including cost, sustainability and taste.
Check out Part 2 here.