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Ferment It All! Attack of the Juicy Juice boxes

Every day they get off the bus at 4:15. I know they’re coming, and I detest their presence. They’re going to sit around the house, take up space, but as much as I want to I can’t get rid of them. No, I’m not talking about my kids; I’m talking about the Juicy Juice juice boxes they bring home every day and never drink.

I should be grateful the elementary school provides a late afternoon snack to its students. Some form of bagged snack such as a cookie, or cracker, or whatever . . . and a Juicy Juice box. What they don’t finish, the kids take home. My kids always seem to finish the snack. The Juicy Juice box, apparently not.

So my kids toss their daily juice box in our pantry upon the emptying of the backpacks. Like, not even stacking them in a certain place or in any kind of order — just literally toss them into the pantry. I find them on the shelf, under the shelf, in my boots, behind the washing machine, some in the fridge, and some in that space between the wall and the fridge somehow. This must end.

I have nothing against Juicy Juice. It seems tasty enough and I was raised to not be wasteful. I’ve taught my kids similar lessons: Hang onto certain things that may be useful in life. But how about seventy-plus juice boxes? Oh, yes, these will be useful.

My day off is Monday. My wife and kids leave for school and I collect all the juice boxes. I line them up on the kitchen counter after scouring the house for every last one: Fruit punch, berry, apple, strawberry watermelon, grape, orange tangerine . . . vegetable blend. Really?! Do kids actually drink something labeled vegetable blend? But I digress . . . there’s only one thing to do: Ferment this mess.

Countless Juicy Juices later and some good daddy-daughter time yields a mostly full carboy.

The kids get home like clockwork, with more juice boxes. I propose a simple request: Someone needs to sit on the kitchen counter, stick the straw into the juice box and hand it to me so I can squeeze the accursed juice into the awaiting three-gallon (11-L) carboy. My seven-year old daughter, Tessa, eagerly volunteers to help.

She assumes her place on the counter and punctures the first juice box. “This one is berry!” she exclaims as she attempts to take a sip. I remind her that she hasn’t drank out of one in the past year, now is not the time to start. I hold the juice box over the funnel and squeeze. Berry juice shoots out of the straw, but abruptly stops halfway through the juice box. I realize puncturing the little foil opening with the straw then just inverting and squeezing the life out of the juice box with satisfactory repressed hatred for its rectangular cluttered existence works best. “Daddy, do you really want vegetable blend?” she asks. “I especially want vegetable blend sweetie,” I reply.

Countless Juicy Juices later and some good daddy-daughter time yields a mostly full carboy. The blend of all fruit and some weird vegetable/fruit blends yields 2.5 gallons (9.5 L). I shake the heck out of the carboy, add a pack of old faithful Lalvin 71B-1122, and have my daughter put on the airlock. I set it and forget it in the corner of my bar for a couple months. A week before bottling day I add potassium sorbate to prevent refermentation and on bottling day I backsweeten with a half gallon (2 L) of Apple Juicy Juice to sweeten it up and bottle.

I must say, it will never win an award, but my angst at the little cluttering boxes turned into something semi-dry and cidery. No individual fruits (or vegetables) are apparent and it’s definitely not the best cider I’ve made, but it sure is a darn good way to clean out a pantry.