Laura Newman, owner of Queens Park Birmingham and the forthcoming Neon Moon, has a multi-pronged strategy for reducing citrus waste.
- Taste citrus juice daily as it may last up to 5 days. Avoid spending staff time juicing every day if not necessary.
- When juice (and other ingredients) are nearing the end of their lifespan, use them in a daily special punch.
- Keep peels, wheels, and wedges refrigerated to last more than one day.
- When citrus wheels start to get nasty, dehydrate them.
- Orange juice is mixed with other citrus juices in menu drinks and also used in the special punch.
- A Sunkist juicer extracts the most juice without a negative flavor impact.
- Citrus stock- they blend citrus stock with fresh juice for event cocktails.
- Additional lime zest is used in their falernum which is available for sale at the bar.
The rest of this post is from an email sent by Newman.
When I worked at bars in NYC, so many places tossed juice, peels, and wheels/wedges after a set amount of time, even if they were still good, which I found profoundly wasteful. This leads to more waste (rather than being able to continue to use, say, 3 day old juice and not prep for another day, prep must always be consistent in order to anticipate a surge in volume): both of citrus itself and payroll/time (prep person's time is wasted if they're juicing and prepping things that don't actually need to be done yet).
Now that I own my own bar, I am extremely in tune to issues of waste and am constantly looking at how to minimize both physical waste and waste of time/human resources. From my experience, citrus juice can last up to 5 days. Sometimes, it lasts 3 - I have no idea why it sometimes lasts longer and sometimes doesn't, but I've taught my staff to taste the oldest date of juice (for all juices we carry - lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, pineapple) every day that they come in to work to determine if it is still good/usable. Same thing with wheels/wedges - if wheels are gross, we'll toss them in the dehydrator. Wedges usually have a very low par level in general as I would rather cut to order at the end of the night rather than tossing a quart or more.
When juice is nearing the end of its lifespan, we'll toss it in what's listed on our menu as "Daily Punch", as the addition of booze will usually give it a couple more days. The punch is priced to sell ($8 including tax) and we usually run out in one weekend night or 3 weeknights - we also use old syrups leftover from events and menu changes, as well as liquor that we can no longer use or that we have leftover stock of from an event. It's a great way to offer all-day happy hour pricing while getting rid of ingredients that would otherwise be discarded or collect dust on the shelves.
Regarding peels: these can also last several days if packaged and stored correctly. All our garnishes are stored in refrigerated drawers for service, which are wrapped with plastic wrap at the end of the night to keep ingredients moist/reduce exposure to oxygen. Peels have a damp sponge or fabric towel placed on them to ensure they don't dry out.
With regards to oranges, we started including orange juice into our house drink specs in order to ensure that we would not be wasting any fruit. We've finally reached an equilibrium where we're going through as much juice as we produce peeled fruit, so there's no waste. I honestly think this is the easiest solution to the issue.
We just include OJ in the specs of house drinks. It's easier to not batch citrus juices together as we have a very large menu of about 65 cocktails.
We remove citrus from refrigerated storage 3-5 hours before juicing it in order to ensure maximum juice extraction. A Sunkist is used for all juicing as it yields the most juice. I'm familiar with the argument that citrus juice from a Sunkist is more bitter, but I am unable to discern this difference in side-by-side tasting of cocktails with juice produced from different methods. While I appreciate the research and effort that went into figuring this out, I think it's resulted in many bar programs that eschew Sunkists when there's no reason to do so and more fruit is wasted.
Orange juice is not acidified, we just add lemon or lime juice to recipes that contain it. Any leftover OJ is used in the aforementioned daily punch.
Citrus Stock: I like to start with the Trash Tiki citrus stock recipe, but I like to add way more sugar as well as malic/citric/tartaric acid. I will usually make these adjustments to taste as the acidity of the "base stock" varies dramatically based on the age/juice content/ripeness of the husks. I honestly don't think that stock alone creates a texture that is pleasant/a good substitute for citrus juice, which is why I like cutting it in, especially when we're making batches for events. Even reducing citrus juice used by half can make a huge difference.
We use citrus stock for events as it helps keep our costs low. I think that in batched cocktails, especially drinks with more than 3 or 4 ingredients, the stock/juice mix isn't noticeable, but I definitely pick it up in things like a Daiquiri - so that's also why we don't use it in regular service at Queen's Park.
We make a couple milk punches, specifically because they last forever. We provide food and meals for our staff, so any leftover milk from the washing will be consumed.
We're currently experimenting with using lime juice and zest to make a long-lasting lime cordial that will be used on the menu at our new bar, Neon Moon (opening this fall assuming construction is allowed to continue). We're in the testing phase now, but the cordial should last a month or more, which will be a great way to extend the life of/effectively use more of our citrus. We also currently use lime zest in our house falernum, which we also sell to-go.