Does that sound like a very strange question? No, we aren’t picking on Florida oranges. But, did you know that much of the Florida orange crops end up being made into juice? And what goes into that morning glass of packaged orange juice?
Approximately 80 percent of America’s orange juice is made from Florida-grown oranges. Florida is second only to Brazil in global orange juice production.
All citrus, including oranges, must ripen on the tree. Citrus does not ripen once removed from the tree. Grove managers take representative samples of oranges from a particular block of trees, about 40 pieces of fruit for a 40 acre block. The juice is squeezed from the sample fruit and the juice is tested for two main attributes -- brix and acid. From these two attributes, the sugar/acid ratio, which determines the flavor of the juice, is determined. Juice must meet minimum standards in order for it to be sold as 100% Florida Orange Juice.
The basic principle of orange juice processing is similar to how you make orange juice at home. Oranges are washed and the juice is extracted by squeezing the oranges. Seeds and particles are strained out. Orange juice is pasteurized to ensure food safety.
For ideal orange juice the processing plants work at achieving a perfect balance between sweet and tangy. This is done by controlling the brix content (mostly soluble sugars) of oranges which is determined by a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity, which is converted to degrees brix.
Then, using a titration method, the percent acid is determined using sodium hydroxide and a phenolphthalein indicator. The ratio of the brix to the acid content can then be calculated. The minimum maturity for oranges varies during the season, but generally it is a minimum of 8.50 brix with a 10.00 to 1 ratio. Many juice processing plants will have even higher minimum maturity standards.
So how “natural” is 100% orange juice? Most orange juice products (But NOT All) undergo a surprising amount of processing. Often, "flavor packs" (also known as "flavor packets") are mixed back into the juice after storage to restore flavor, and pulp-dissolving enzymes (such as pectinase) may also be added to maintain a more consistent mix. Always confirm a product's ingredients before buying it, as manufacturers often change their production processes.
To finish the job essences and oils (recovered in the processing process) are also added back to enhance the flavor. This blending process is how juice made from concentrate (FCOJ) has a more consistent quality year round than fresh juice or NFC. The FCOJ (at about 65° brix) is either put into 55-gallon drums and shipped in a refrigerated truck, or is loaded onto a special food-grade insulated tanker truck and delivered to a packaging plant. (Some Florida processing plants also have packaging plants at the same site. Many dairies around the country also package orange juice using the same equipment used to package milk).
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Sunburst Packing Co.
180 South “E” Street
Porterville, CA 93257