Carrots are divine... You get a dozen for a dime, It's maaaa-gic!
- Bugs Bunny
Yes, carrots are divine, but carrot juice? Does the analogy of trying to squeeze water from a rock occur to you? Indeed, even though carrots are roughly 80% water, they are mighty jealous of it. So why bother? Why not just make something easier out of carrots? Only for the simple reason that sipping a properly prepared glass of carrot juice is the next best thing to an orgasm.
...Well, ok, that may be an overstatement - but the experience ought to be found in the top tenth percentile of any list that has an orgasm at the very top of it1. Plus, it's also good for you. In fact it's really good for you - but more about that later.
Here, then, is how you can properly prepare carrot juice that's fit for a king.
Obtain Some Carrots
Ideally, you want the largest carrots that you can find. This is for two reasons. Firstly, in order to become large they usually have to have been in the ground longer which generally means they'll be sweeter. This is not always the case, of course, but it's a good bet. Secondly, working with tiny carrots soon becomes fiddly and annoying.
It could go without saying that you will want the carrots to be fresh and crisp. Keep in mind that they can be stored for inordinate lengths of time in refrigerated warehouses, so to avoid buying elderly carrots, be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, black fuzz, sprouts that don't belong, that kind of thing. It's best to break off a tip and sample it. It could also go without saying that sweet carrots will yield sweet juice.
Wash, Peel and Trim
The need for washing the carrots seems obvious enough, but perhaps less so for peeling them. There are two important facts to know about the skin. The first is that, for reasons best known to themselves, carrots protect themselves against insects by making their skins bitter instead of making them tough. The second is that there are no extra or different nutrients in the skin so there is nothing really lost by peeling and discarding it2.
In case you find this hard to believe, you have only to peel a carrot and taste the peelings vs the remaining carrot. Then, leave both the peeled carrot and the peelings out on the counter for half and hour. The peelings will turn brown but the peeled carrot will not. Now try them both again. There is no arguing with taste, right?
As for the matter of whether there is a nutritional difference between the two, one can take carrots to a laboratory, assay a whole carrot, then the peelings, then the remaining carrot and compare the results. This has been done in a US Department of Agriculture laboratory with the result that no difference was found.
As for trimming the carrots, cut the blunt end just below the dirt line above which it was exposed to the sun during its growth, and snick off the very tip of the narrow end.
If there were greens at the top these can be used for soups, so we hear, but you should actually try to get carrots without the green tops as the carrot will want to keep them growing. As for the blunt ends, what they add to the flavour, at most, is a hint of turpentine.
So, for sweet, vibrantly coloured juice that will not quickly turn brown, wash and peel the carrots, then trim off the ends.
Pulp and Squeeze
You will need first to grind the carrots to a pulp, and then separate the juice from the pulp. To do this without expending a huge amount of time and manual labour, say, pounding carrots on a stone, you will need a juicer of some kind - something with a motor. Among the readily available models, three basic processes are represented. One is to masticate (or shred) the carrot to a pulp and force it through a funnel so that dry pulp comes out the end while juice falls through a screen at the bottom. Another is to shred the carrot to a pulp and sling it out against a screen which allows the juice to pass but not the pulp. The last uses what is called a cutter and grinder to reduce the carrot to a pulp, which is collected in a bag that is then placed under a hydraulic press.
All three methods work, but each will produce juice with different characteristics. The first, which we shall call 'the funnel' extracts more juice than the second from the same amount of carrot, but the second, which we shall call 'the centrifuge', often filters the juice better which makes it more pleasant to drink. The third, which we shall call 'the press', extracts the most juice and leaves behind pulp that is so dry as to be tasteless. Having been pressed through cloth, the juice is also filtered and is more pleasant to drink. So, how do you choose one over the other?
Centrifuges are generally the least expensive, with the funnel being next in line. The press is far and away the most expensive. Prices vary considerably, so this will be left as an exercise for the prudent shopper.
About 80% of a carrot is water, and we want to get as much of that out as possible. As a rule, the more water we extract, the more nutrients come along with it. However, the relationship isn't linear, meaning that if we double the yield, we more than double the nutrients. Think of it in terms of the 80/20 rule, where in this case 80% of the nutrients are in the last 20% of the water to be extracted, and you won't be too far wrong.
So, if maximising nutritional value is paramount, you will want to query the manufacturers on how much juice (by weight) their juicer will extract from a given amount of carrots. Again, the centrifuges generally produce the least, and presses produce the most.
Truthfully, there is not a great deal of difference among the various juicers in this respect - they're all time-consuming to clean after use, so you might as well get used to that.
Some centrifuges include expendable paper filters that are placed against the screen and discarded after use - so check to see if this is the case for any particular model under consideration.
The press generally has reusable bags that do eventually clog and have to be replaced - so you will want to inquire about the care and cleaning of these.
Here is a low cost, do-it-yourself step necessary to obtaining the very best juice from either the funnel or centrifuge that is also comparable in yield to the press. Find some synthetic cloth like dacron and make a filter bag. This involves sewing, so be warned. The size of the bag ought to be such that you could fit an empty one-litre bottle inside. It's simple enough really - just cut a square piece, fold it over once and double-stitch two adjacent sides, then turn it inside out and Bob's your uncle.
Now take all of the juice and pour it into the bag, then squeeze it out into a bowl. This does a better job of filtering the juice than your juicer did - guaranteed. Next dump a manageable quantity of pulp in the bag and twist both ends so that the pulp is in the middle. Then wring the bag as hard as you can over the bowl. (The reason for using synthetic fabric is because of its superior burst strength - you may be sure that a number of mishaps led to this discovery.) Reverse the bag, dump out the now very dry pulp, rinse, reverse again, refill, and wring. Keep this up until the pulp is all done. Two or three repetitions at most ought to do.
For a really low-cost alternative, throw the carrots into a high-powered blender to make the pulp, then wring out the pulp as above.
For a really, really low cost alternative, don a loin cloth, find a flat stone for a mortar, a hefty rock for a pestle and start pounding. Need we say that the loin cloth and filter cloth ought not to be one and the same?
A Last Tip
It happens sometimes that you just can't get perfect and wonderful carrots and the juice ends up with some discernable bitterness. In this case, put one or two small slices of apple in your glass and let it sit for awhile. This removes the bitterness, though we're not sure why.
And a Health Warning
In addition to tasting smoother and sweeter than honey, carrot juice is extraordinarily good for you. First and foremost, it is rich in beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant and particularly effective against lung cancer, even among formerly heavy smokers. Apparently, one medium carrot's worth of beta carotene a day is sufficient to reduce the risk of lung cancer by 50%.
Beta carotene is also only vitamin A waiting to happen. The human digestive system is capable of splitting a beta carotene molecule neatly in half and reacting it with a water molecule to make two vitamin As and some bits left over, but will only do so when it needs to - so there is no risk of overdosing on vitamin A by drinking too much carrot juice3.
What results instead from drinking inordinate amounts is a ruddy colour to the skin that may be mistaken by ignoramuses for jaundice, but in fact, beta carotene is excellent for healthy skin. (Jaundice indeed - what a bunch of twits!)
Actually, a semi-serious word about dosage may be in order. One doesn't really need to drink like a profligate to enjoy lots of health benefits. All other things being equal, two pounds of carrots can be relied on to give up at least a pint of juice and this in turn will deliver five times the nutrients of a like quantity of cooked carrots.
Now then, which of these do you think a child would prefer, cooked carrots or lovely carrot juice? If your child doesn't prefer the juice, then before throwing it into the bin (your child) you might try watering the juice down a little, as children have very sensitive palates compared with adults and the juice may only taste too strong.
And by the way, another benefit, or so it is claimed in France, is that carrots make people friendly. So if you meet someone grumpy, you can tell them that they should eat more carrots. Better yet, offer them a glass of lovely carrot juice.
In Case of Spills
If you happen to spill some on your clothes, then we are very sorry to hear it. The best way to remove the stain is to rinse copiously with cold water - just the same as if it were a blood stain (although losing carrot juice is infinitely worse than losing blood).
The Eyes Have It
Drinking carrot juice will give you x-ray vision.
Ok, no it won't. However vitamin A is required to make 'visual purple' formed in the back of the eye to enable us to see in dim light. Hence the apocryphal story of WWII RAF pilots being fed carrots in order to pass off their use of radar as having superhuman vision instead and so keep the British invention from being discovered.
So Drink Up
Find a tall, clear glass, pour in your hard-won, well-deserved treasure, hold it up to the light, swirl it a bit if you like, then start sipping.