Fresh, Frozen, From Concentrate, Not From Concentrate, Fresh-Squeezed, Florida-Pressed, Grass-Fed? All right, the last one isn't really a contender, but anyone who has looked closely at juice labels knows how hard it is not only find to find juices that taste fresh, but juices that are made of, well, juice. Apple juice in orange juice, sugar, corn syrup, and non-U.S.-based oranges are just a few of the stories plaguing the orange juice industry these days, and finding unique juice mixes--perhaps those with blueberries, peaches, or other fruits--proves difficult if you're looking for real ingredients and not just sugar.
Natalie's is going for that fresh, family-run, premium juice prize. The Florida-based Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company recently sent me several samples of seasonal and standard juices from their award-winning lineup. From their traditional orange juice to their very unique blackberry lime, I was given a nice set to play with for drinking and delights.
Noticeable at every food fair due to their large displays and smart-looking blazers and khakis, Natalie's is known for their juice, as well as their rather, shall we say, agressive marketing tactics. Friendly, yes, but it's hard to walk down the aisle without being forced to stop and have a taste. Hey, a company's gotta reach out, right? I happily agreed to try out some of the juices, and was sent a rather full list of recipes ranging from orange chicken and rice to smoothies and desserts.
First off was a taste test: Natalie's Orange certainly had a more vibrant flavor than my Florida's Natural juice, though once put in smoothies, it (not unexpectedly) lost a certain amount of shine. Natalie's Grapefruit was added to a side dish of brussels sprouts, cranberries, and pistachios, and here it actually stood out over other weak, watered-down juices. When the juice's sugars hit the pan, they provided a sour-sweet glaze that nearly caramelized on the sprouts, providing for an altogether lovely and flavorful dish.
The Blackberry Lime was a first for me, and though the blackberry flavor was light at first taste, the lime (and make sure you shake the bottle before each sip!) really came through at the end of every sip, providing a pleasantly biting punch that didn't overpower the berry boost. My Orange Mango Peach was the first thing I grabbed, and though there wasn't nearly as much mango or peach flavor as I would have liked, the juice was refreshing and filling. Why? A soft pulp--more like that found at the bottom of a nectar bottle--was present throughout the juice, providing a textural difference without giving me a stuck-in-my-teeth, orange, pulpy finish.
The Honey Tangerine had a nice oomph to it, though I was disappointed after salivating at the name. My bottle had a good tangerine bite, but the honey flavor was nowhere to be seen. My Lemonade, though, was terrifically refreshing. Sweet, but not cloyingly so, and sour, but not overly so, it was a delicious taste of real lemonade.
I used the juices in sweet and savory dishes alike, adding citrus flavors to dinner, yogurt drinks, vegetable side dishes, main dishes, and more. Each time, I was pleased with the results, though if other companies made identical flavors, how different would each dish taste? This I cannot say, though my grapefruit sprouts were certainly memorable.
I do feel that I'm putting something better into my body when I drink Natalie's, and I do greatly appreciate the fact that this juice company is run by 5th generation citrus growers who still squeeze fresh juice for all to enjoy. You just feel better after drinking it.
For availability and prices at the moment, you'll have to visit their website at http://orchidislandjuice.com/content/home, or call 1.888.373.7444.
Where are they? At the food shows, but that's as much as I know--I've never seen the product in any local markets, but perhaps that's because they're 2,000 miles away from New York. They should be gaining ground, especially because they recently won Good Housekeeping's Best Orange Juice Test and also secured first place for orange juice on America's Test Kitchen. Is it the mix of three types of Florida oranges that does the drink? Take a few sips and you tell me.