The frozen concentrated orange juice that we enjoy today was developed during World War II. The Florida Citrus Commission assembled a team of three researchers to improve the quality of processed orange products. The immediate goal was to produce a concentrated orange juice that would taste like fresh for the armed forces fighting in Europe and on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The long term goal was to sell more orange juice. The team succeeded at both.
C.D. Atkins, Edwin L. Moore and L. G. MacDowell discovered a way to produce a concentrated frozen orange juice that retained most of the flavor and much of the vitamin C of fresh juice. The work was done at a laboratory in Lakeland, Florida, provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, and the first major order for the new product was placed by the U.S. Army.
After a relatively slow start, retail sales of frozen concentrated orange juice from Florida Foods Corporation took off in 1949 when the company changed its name to Minute Maid in 1949 and hired Bing Crosby to croon its praises. The process developed by that team wanting to help the army provide “fresh” orange juice for the troops is used to make many other frozen juices we enjoy today.
Since my mother was an early adopter of new food products, we had juice made from stuff that looked like orange popsicles sometime in the early 1950’s, and I am pretty sure that we also had limeade made from stuff that looked like green popsicles before I left for college.
I’m not very particular about lemonade, but I still think that limeade made with fresh limes has a better flavor than even that made from premium quality concentrates. The secret seems to be the lime zest which produces a deep delicious lime flavor. You release that flavor by heating the zest in the sugar syrup. It takes a little time to grate the zest, but the results are worth it.
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 T lime zest
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
6 cups cold water
1 drop green food color
Wash and dry at least eight limes. If they are small or not very juicy, you may need a dozen. Use a fine kitchen grater to remove the zest, the green outer layer of the rind, from several of them until you have a tablespoonful.
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the sugar and the zest
until sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Squeeze enough limes to collect a cup and a half of juice while the syrup is cooling. Pour the juice into a large container.
Mix in a cup of cold water to further cool the syrup and stir it into the juice. Add five more cups of cold water and a drop of green food color, stir well and refrigerate.
NOTES: It is easier to extract the juice from the limes if you microwave them a few seconds before squeezing them. I heat three limes at a time for thirty-five seconds in our microwave.
When I first made this limeade I thought that the zest would make the limeade look like it had some impurity in it, but I don’t even notice it. I stir the zest into the syrup with a fork and watch for any big pieces of rind that may have found their way into the syrup and remove them with the fork.
If you want to have the limeade ready to drink right away, melt some ice cubes into the juice and syrup when you add the water and pour the limeade over ice cubes in the glasses when you serve it.