Why Southern Grandmothers Always Made Orange Juice From Frozen Store-Bought Concentrate

It's more meaningful than you might think. 

Orange juice goes with breakfast like biscuits and jam, and it wasn’t Saturday morning at my grandmother’s house without me bellying up to the kitchen counter while she made a pitcher of “fresh” orange juice from an icy tube of Minute Maid frozen concentrate. At home, my mom bought regular jugs of liquid orange juice, so what was my grandmother’s penchant for preparing her own?

Turns out, frozen orange juice concentrate—particularly the beloved Minute Maid variety—became insanely popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when frugal house-making and frozen foods reigned supreme. The tube of frozen “fresh” OJ was cheaper than a jug and stayed usable in the freezer for at least a year, making it a no-brainer for Southern women who learned how to stretch a penny during World War II. (In fact, frozen orange juice concentrate was invented only a few years before by scientists in order to be able to send OJ to WWII soldiers abroad.)

For my grandmother who grew up on a working South Georgia farm in varying wartimes (and with many, many siblings for her mother to feed), hard-working values and a healthy frugality were instilled at a young age—and so it only made sense to use whatever got the most bang for her buck. She even kept her habit of using frozen Minute Maid concentrate in lieu of a fresh jug well into the 2000s. It’s hard to still find her signature tube in the grocery store today, but I can’t help but always keep an eye out in the frozen section.

As a kid, watching her stir together a solid block of neon orange ice in a pitcher of water merely felt more fun to me than the plain jug we had at home—little did I know, there was a whole history behind it. For her, it was a duty of sorts; for me, it was a lazy Saturday morning, waiting for her biscuits to come out of the oven.

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