Growing up in Florida I was spoiled by having fresh fruit within reach. Literally.
You could walk in and get pampered by the scent of citrus. You could taste the orange zest in the air.
They packed up citrus and sent it all over. In the next room, they had coolers of freshly squeezed orange juice. You could sample it, too. And by sample, I mean drink enough to leave your eyeballs floating in a sweet sea.
As good as that was, I eventually realized that good juice didn’t have to get its start in a grove.
Of course there’s apple and grape. And don’t forget cranberry.
But those juices are concoctions. They’re hardly ever pure. There’s a ton of sugar and at least 2 other kinds of fruit juice in there.
Pure cranberry juice is tart and almost dry. It’s also about $11 a bottle. But it’s worth it.
You get more nutrients and antioxidants.
Not long ago, I tried pomegranate juice for the first time. Again, it’s expensive, but you get what you pay for. It’s rich, has body, and it’s oh so refreshing.
For under $4 a bottle you can get pure juices at Trader Joe’s. Did I mention that the bottle is glass?? (You can find similar stuff at other grocery stores, but be prepared to pay.)
Since I’d tasted pomegranate juice before, I chose cherry juice for my ingredient introduction.
It’s tart, but still has a natural sweetness. It has fewer sugars than the pomegranate variety.
Earlier in the week, I got a great deal on pork tenderloin, so I decided to perk it up using the cherry juice.
To do that, I made a cherry molasses. This is basically a thick syrup. It’s rich, and really concentrates the flavor.
3 cups pure cherry juice
1/3 cup sugar
Combine the two in a small pan. Turn the heat to high, and start stirring. The sugar will dissolve, and the mixture will begin to boil. Turn the heat down a tad. You want a slow boil, not one that’ll leave you splattered.
Don’t turn your back on it. In the end it’ll foam up, and could over flow. That’ll leave you with a burnt on mess that not even a Gladiator with a glove of razor blades could remove. This is what I’ve heard could happen. Heard. Yeah…
In the end, you’re left with this thick, ruby, almost garnet, gorgeous goop.
Brush on the molasses, pop the pan in an oven preheated to 450 and let the pork finish cooking for about 5 minutes.
Using a potholder,take the pan out of the oven, flip the medallions to rub them around in all the juice. Plate them, and pour on the rest of your molasses.
You could make a molasses with the pomegranate juice, too. If you want it to have a bit of a shelf life, add a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’ll also counterbalance the concentrated sweetness of the syrup. Again, more natural sugars in the pomegranate juice,
But wait, I’m not done.
To continue celebrating the cherry juice, I made a drink. Truth be told, I drank it (okay, 2 of them) while I cooked. So sue me.
When I lived in Arkansas, we went to this hip, posh little bar before a big night out. One night, they had a special drink called the cherry colada martini. It was icy, tropical, and fruity, I loved it. As my luck would have it, the drink disappeared from the menu, though I could usually con the bartender into making me one.
So, with this nearly empty bottle of cherry juice staring at me, I went down memory lane.
Here’s how you can travel with me:
2 oz. cherry juice
1.5 oz coconut vodka
1 oz. coconut milk
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled halfway with ice. Pop on the top and shake what your mama gave ya.
For those of you non-drinkers, substitute coconut water for the vodka.
Even if you don’t want to get crazy with it, try some pure juice. Orange is fine, if you can get it flown in from Florida. If not, go for pomegranate and cherry, but read the label first.
Tip: Take two sides to new heights. I served the pork tenderloin with roasted sweet potatoes and peas. Boring, right? Not.
Slice your potatoes into spears, then roll them in olive oil, salt, curry powder, and cinnamon. Roast at 450 for about 20 minutes. Then drop on some Sriracha (spicy chili sauce). The natural sweetness of the potato, goes well with the spices. Curry powder is warm, like cinnamon, but has a bit of a kick, which gets highlighted by the Sriracha.
For the peas, I used the frozen kind. They’re great to keep in the freezer for salads or sides.
Thaw them, dry them off, then spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle on some olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt and garlic powder, roast at 450 for about 10 minutes. They start to caramelize, bringing out even more of their natural sweetness. And, they lose their mushy consistency. They’re almost crunchy. Before serving, add a light drizzle of olive oil and another sprinkle of salt.