Earlier this week Reuters reported the findings of some surprised researchers: add some tequila to your juice to increase the antioxidant levels.
Antioxidants are critical in cancer prevention, but some Jack in your orange juice for breakfast just doesn’t seem like the very best path we can take to increase the antioxidants in our diets.
First, alcohol and depression are not the best combination. Alcohol is a mood depressant and it actually requires nutrients to digest.
Second, if you’re going to consume the calories, make them count for a little more.
When juice is squeezed, it begins to oxidize and form cancer-causing free radicals. In fact, it was in the context of researching how to preserve juice that researchers stumbled upon the Jack Daniels/Cuervo option. The alcohol increases antioxidant activity which helps preserve the juice and your health.
When the juice is squeezed, levels of vitamin C begin to decline as well. Vitamin C is important in folate metabolism; there is a solid body of literature that links low folate and depression.
But if you ferment that juice in your own kitchen, you will maintain the Vitamin C levels, increase antioxidant activity, and add beneficial bacteria to your diet.
I like to call this “home brew” or (even better) “hooch” because then people think I’m a little wild. But this really isn’t like what grandpa made in his bathtub or what the science teacher made in the still on the weekends when school was out. It has but a trace of alcohol.
It will preserve that vitamin C, increase the antioxidant activity, and as a bonus will increase the beneficial bacteria in the juice. Check on the cost of probiotics at a health food store and you will see that home brews are nature’s way of saving your money.
I have two methods of preserving fruit juice. I’ll start with my favorite.
The Water Kefir Approach
This approach uses a starter – a water kefir grain – that looks nothing like you are picturing. Here is a picture of some of my water kefir grains floating in a jar of sugar water.
What I do is add the grains to sugar water to inoculate the water with the bacteria. The grains live on the sugar and, as they hang out, they add bacteria to the water. After a day or so, I strain out the grains and then add juice to the water. I let the juice concoction sit until it reaches my desired level of sweetness, which is usually a few days. It will become less sweet by the day until it reaches a vinegar stage.
The Lacto-Fermentation Approach
Without the water kefir grains, you can experiment by adding a few cups of juice to a couple of quarts of water, a couple of teaspoons of salt, and ¼ cup of whey (this is the liquid that floats on yogurt). Let it sit in a jar with a cloth on top to keep out the bugs. If the juice has pieces of fruit or pulp, you’ll want to skim the top of the ferment for anything that looks like something you’re not up to drinking. (This can happen with the water kefir too, but it’s more like a film which is totally edible by the way.)
Both of these drinks will ferment in a day in the summer and may take a week or so in the winter.