Juice That's Worth The Squeeze
Humans have been consuming the juice of fruits for millennia. But in the 20th century AD, commercial and home juicers increased the availability of juice to the American public.
The proliferation of juice was helped, no doubt, by Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch’s invention in the late 19th century of a pasteurization process for grape juice. Welch, a dentist and Wesleyan Methodist minister, was opposed to the consumption of alcohol and marketed his “unfermented grape juice” to churches, according to Wikipedia.
In the last half of the 20th century, juicing became something people could do in their own homes. Juice bars cropped up as places where health conscious people could obtain custom blends of juices that may or may not have tasted great but were touted to provide a good dose of nutrients.
More than six years ago, Jenn McCrea started her business at the lunch counter in the back of Hill’s Pharmacy, 30 E. Dover St., Easton. Although it is called “Hill’s Juice Bar and Café” and is located inside of the pharmacy building, McCrea owns the business and rents the space.
It is here where locals come for JMX, short for Jenn’s Magic Elixir, a blend of vegetables and fruit juices made daily. Two commercial juicers help keep up with the demand for healthy juices, although juicing results in an enormous amount of leftover pulp. Sometimes, an employee takes pulp home for chicken feed or compost.
McCrea had been working for Cisco and was looking for a change when she took over the business behind Hill’s Pharmacy from a friend and customer. A customer gave her juice its name and it stuck. Every day, the juice bar offers its green juice, which is made with spinach, parsley, mint, carrots, celery, cucumbers, lemon, lime, orange, apple, and pineapple. While the wildly popular drink will always be on the menu, “we will never, ever make another 11-ingredient juice again,” McCrea said. It takes a long time to make a juice with so many ingredients, but it is a complex and refreshing juice. Lightly sweet and definitely green, the juice is smooth and easy to drink.
At Hill’s Juice Bar and Café, healthy options have always been on the menu without pressure or judgment. One can still order a hamburger and a malted milkshake, but McCrea even looks out for customers’ health with those.
McCrea sources as many ingredients as possible from local farms and producers, and as many organic ingredients as possible. All of the meat is from animals not treated with antibiotics, and the beef is all certified Angus.
“Now, compared to six years ago, there seems to be so much local access,” McCrea said. Lettuce, berries, and milk are all locally sourced, as well as other options, and McCrea keeps a list of local suppliers on a board in the café.
If one is ordering juice and looking for a healthy lunch option, McCrea recommends the protein bowl. The ingredients vary based on what is available, but it is generally a warm, brothy meal with a base of grains and vegetables, topped with sliced chicken breast.
The protein bowl could be different every day because of the seemingly endless variations. On this day, the protein bowl is organic chicken seasoned with zathar, or za’atar, a combination of toasted sumac and sesame seeds. It rests atop quinoa, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and spaghetti squash in a turmeric bone broth to which McCrea has added stock.
While it is warm and filling, the meal is neither heavy nor greasy. It would work well to warm a cold body on a rainy day or to simply nourish on any day. The perfectly cooked vegetables complement the tender chicken, but it all is held together by the savory broth. When served steaming hot, the savory spices entice the diner to dig in.
Pair it with the green juice, or for a lighter tasting option, the green lemonade, which has all the same vegetables as the green juice but less fruit.
Other juice options include the Aronia Berry Blast, which among other fruits includes locally sourced aronia berries. While they look like beautiful blueberries and are packed with antioxidants, aronia berries do not taste good raw. Made into jam or juiced with other fruits, aronia berries can offer their health benefits without bitterness. (McCrea noted that the farmer who supplies them eats a handful on his cereal every day.)
The Flu Fighter juice, especially appealing this past winter, is a combination of grapefruit, oranges, lemon, carrots, and fresh ginger.
Selecting healthy options from Hill’s Café and Juice Bar is a personal choice, McCrea said. No one will judge a diner for ordering that milkshake and a grilled cheese. Healthy living is about balance.