The tangerine is from our own backyard tree, the orange in the center is a Valencia orange from the tree on the side of the house, and the lemon is just one of the three giant fruits given to us by a friend from her own backyard lemon tree.
We have an enormous lot of Valencia oranges to go through yet. So far, we have been out to that tree at least 6 times to pick the fruit in large buckets and, when desperate, laundry baskets that weren’t in use at the moment (don’t worry, I’ve cleaned them thoroughly before any laundry was to actually go inside of them). It think it’s safe to say that we have pulled at least a hundred oranges from that tree, give or take, and that’s not including what the neighbors have claimed as their own (a huge limb hangs over their backyard fence and we’ve told them pick ‘em if you got ‘em!). There are still so many oranges left on that tree that I don’t think we’ll get to them in time before the first really hard freeze renders them useless. But we’re trying!
All this gathering of valencias has resulted in quite a few shipments of juice oranges to our loved ones across half the country. What we decide to keep for ourselves goes straight into a pitcher for us to enjoy with breakfast. Or with vodka. Don’t judge me.
This bucket you see in the photograph above contains 25 valencia oranges, which is just the right amount to yield a full pitcher of freshly squeeze orange juice. It’s tiring work to juice so many oranges and certainly not something I could do every day. However, after watching a report on ABC News last night about just how misleading orange juice companies can be regarding product labeling and their listing and actual use of honest ingredients, I was more than happy to make my own orange juice – not from concentrate and certainly not made with oranges from California or Brazil.
It took me a little over an hour to press all the juice out of every single Valencia that I’d halved and squeezed like my life depended on it. Five oranges only yield about 12 ounces, or 1.5 cups, so it can be time-consuming and quite the physical endeavor. My hands increasingly became cramped and the thick pulp of the oranges’ insides made it difficult for the juice to pass through the strainer at times, resulting in frequent rinsing and constant interruption.
We don’t take for granted what a lush bounty of fruit we have come into this year. My mother once told me a story about how Florida Welcome Centers used to offer travelers a free glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. She traveled a lot as a kid from Northern Wisconsin to South Florida. This, of course, was before the existence of interstates when small towns relied on vacationers to drive in off from US 27, US 41, and US 301, stay for the night in one of the town’s tropical-themed motels, and dine where the locals dined. Roadside stands promised to show travelers the World’s Largest Alligator and kids could even take one home as a pet! I’m assuming most families opted to spring for a souvenir crate of Florida oranges instead.
The signs luring tourists to one-of-a-kind attractions and the promise of a complimentary glass of freshly squeezed orange juice are still visible on the back roads and US highways today. The small shacks proclaiming such available novelties are inconveniently “closed for the season”, no matter what time of year I’ve driven by.
When you really think about it, that’s tragic because orange juice is one of the few things that is famously Floridian. For me to spend an hour squeezing out a healthy and truly pure glass of orange juice makes me feel pretty damn lucky. Not to mention, it’s the best orange juice I’ve ever had.