Juicing your own fruits and veggies is a great addition to a healthy diet. We get to enjoy all sorts of different plant flavors mashed together in a nutritious liquid snack. Juicers, masticators, and blenders became an integral part of kitchens all around the world, so, naturally, all sorts of questions surfaced, especially about juice safety.
Right now, I’d like to address the whole process of pasteurization. Let’s dig in and talk about the ups and downs of this process, and see how you can use it to your advantage in the best way possible. After all, pasteurization is considered the cornerstone of food safety. Don’t worry, I won’t use technical terms, we are here to get to the point right away.
What Is Pasteurized Juice?
Pasteurization is, in its essence, cooking for safety reasons. The sole process boils down to heating up freshly-made juice and leaving it to “sit” on a certain temperature. This process is relatively new and it is responsible for fruit juice mass production. Two things are being pasteurized around the world right now – fruit/veggie juices and milk, but dairy products are a different story.
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of food for us humans. But bacteria like to eat (and live on) these plants as well. You can wash away some of these germs in the sink, but it is really hard to remove a significant amount without the help of pasteurization. Germs (mainly bacteria) can’t stand the heat caused by cooking, and all living germs die during the process.
So, by basically cooking your fresh juice for a while, you get to enjoy your juice for longer and drink it another day. You probably already know that juices can survive 3 days in the fridge at best (masticated juice). But juice pasteurization made it possible for us to store our liquid snacks for longer than 72 hours. So, why would anyone go through the trouble of cooking their juice? Just to extend the shelf life? Believe me, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Why is juice pasteurized?
If you wanted to get deep into this process, you’d probably need a LOT of time to get to cover it from every angle. The number of reasons for pasteurization is large and it depends on the type of plant you are trying to process.
However, there are some clear reasons, both from the side of home juicing and the perspective of the juice industry – so here’s a summary of the best reasons:
- Safety – we already mentioned that the heat is killing a significant amount of bacteria, thus making the juice safer to consume, with fewer risks of bacterial infection, or food poisoning in general.
- Shelf life – with the majority of bacteria gone, the shelf life gets significantly longer.
- Storage – once the bacteria is gone, you get to prepare juices upfront. This is super-convenient for people who are into a healthy lifestyle but don’t have the time to prepare fresh juice every day.
- Pregnancy – by now, you probably found out that pregnant women cannot drink juiced fruits and veggies due to bacteria contamination. Pasteurizing makes them safe again for consumption during pregnancy.
- Mass production – the pasteurization process enabled big juice manufacturers to start producing significantly larger quantities and varieties of juice.
How to Pasteurize Juice at Home?
This process, though simple, takes some time to master. I know I said that pasteurization is just cooking, but this type of cooking requires some patience and a steady hand. In the juice industry, this process is shorter. The juice is exposed to about 185° F (85° C) for less than a minute. But industrial tools and machines have the precision a human hand can never achieve. This is why, at home, we do this for longer at a lower temperature.
*Keep in mind – because not every juice is cooked at the same heat, I will lead you through the essentials of the process. The cooking time and temperature will change to accommodate the fruits/veggies you are using.
Here’s how you pasteurize juice at home:
- Wash the ingredients in lukewarm water before you cut them or put them directly into the juicer. It would be good to clean the juicer blades and pitcher/bowl as well.
- Start blending until you reach the juice density and consistency you like.
- Some people like to siphon out the pulp and pasteurize the clear part of the juice only. Decide which one you like better and proceed.
- Take a clean pot or cooking bowl and pour the juice in.
- Now comes the tricky part – you need to cook your juice at about 160° F for at least 1 minute to kill the majority of harmful bacteria, like e. coli
- Preheat the glasses/jars and pour the pasteurized juice in. Close the lids as soon as you can. Preheating the glasses/jars juice is extremely important.
- Wait for the sealed glass/jar to cool off and store it.
Should You Pasteurize Your Own Juice?
It depends on your habits. Unpasteurized juice, aka raw juice, preserves more nutrients but it is not as safe as pasteurized. The taste of raw juice is better as well because more plant parts survive without the applied heat. However, if you are new to juicing, you can start with pasteurizing and decide once you get more advanced with the juicer. Both sides have their benefits and downsides, so it is up to you to decide whether you want to sacrifice nutrients and some flavor for safety.
Well, the answer is already there, isn’t it? Pasteurized juices are safer, not only for pregnant women and children but for everyone else. Bacterial infections from raw juices do not happen that often, but they do happen after all. Naturally, people with compromised immune systems should be extra careful.
Shelf life is also a convenient benefit of pasteurized juices. You get to decide when you get to drink the juice and not the bacteria that makes it go bad quickly. If you have a busy work schedule, you get the chance to prepare your favorite juices upfront.
Both of these upsides combine into the most important one – ease of mind. If you don’t mind losing some nutrients, you can at least be sure that you don’t risk anything by trying to eat healthily. Most of the time, when I have a busy week in front of me, I like to prepare my juices for the next 5 to 7 days and pasteurize them right away.
The most obvious downside of pasteurized juice is the taste. Some people may not detect these differences, but they do exist. Raw juice simply tastes better. It is fresher, and above all, it offers more nutrients.
Industrially produced pasteurized juice retains more nutrients thanks to the machinery used at the factories. But, pasteurizing at home is another story – a stove and a pot simply cannot match the precision of the industrial machinery.
3. How to know if Juice is pasteurized?
There is no certain way for us to know whether the juice is pasteurized or not. If you are buying fruit juice at a store, make sure to read the label – the FDA made it mandatory for the juice industry to clearly state whether their product is pasteurized or not.
If you were wondering whether the juice in your fridge is pasteurized or not (forgot to label it, didn’t you?) there is no way to tell for sure. However, if unpasteurized juice sat on the fridge shelf for longer than a couple of days, the smell will be the tell. Raw juice gets darker and turns pungent once the spoiling starts.
Quick Tips About Juice Pasteurization
Ok, now that I’ve told you about the pros and cons of pasteurization, it’s time to jump into some practical tips about the whole process. I would love it if someone told me this back when I started juicing my fruits and veggies.
1. Cleanliness is next to godliness
I can’t stress this enough – wash those fruits and veggies, and wash them good! And not only that. Wash your hands and thoroughly wash the pot you will be cooking in, and the jars you will be storing the juice in. The sole reason for good hygiene is to avoid recontamination. Juices are super-attractive to germs, and reintroducing different strains of bacteria to a pasteurized batch can make it spoil.
2. Pick a Good Container and Remember to Preheat It!
I recommend glass jars for storing pasteurized juice. The bacteria can’t get in, and glass is known for not affecting the taste of juice. Now, onto a safety PSA: Don’t forget to preheat the glasses before you pour the hot pasteurized juice in!
The reason I’m insisting on this is – cold glass can shatter when it comes to contact with hot liquid. When I say shatter, I mean glass shards flying everywhere. The heat will additionally remove bacteria from the glass jars, so it is a win-win situation.
3. How long does pasteurized juice last?
A properly-pasteurized glass of juice can last up to 100 days. Yeah, you heard that right. It seems so silly compared to raw juice that lasts up to 72 hours at best. The full extent of the 100 days is legit only if the pasteurization is done properly. I know it sounds hard, but believe me, you will get the hang of it faster than you think. After all, it’s not rocket science.
4. Not every fruit/veggie is the same
Once you decide that you want to start pasteurizing your own juice, make sure to do a few minutes of research and find the correct temperature for the ingredients you intend to put in the juicer. Of course, if you get a juicer that handles certain plants better (e.g. juicer for kale), the pasteurization of kale will go better, because there will be fewer solid parts to siphon and pasteurize.
A Final Thought
Whether pasteurizing juice is good or bad is up to you. Raw vs. pasteurized is a debate that comes down to what you want: a tastier, more nutritious juice that is not exactly safe for everyone or a glass of safe juice that you can store up to 100 days. It is up to you to decide whether you want healthier or more convenient. But no one says that you can’t try both. Me personally, I like to drink raw juices if I have the time to prepare them. And, if I’m too busy, pasteurize a larger batch of juice to help me through the week.
All in all, the fact that you have decided to give up sodas and turn to make your own juices is already a big step towards a healthier lifestyle. You are taking your wellbeing into your own hands and it is a wonderful thing to do! Stay healthy!