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My grandmother's peace offering? A juicer

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

I was perfectly happy with my old juicer.

A compact Juiceman Jr. that I bought for $12 at a thrift store was all I needed for the occasional apple ginger chard juice I'd make with extra greens from the garden or to help get rid of that 15-pound bag of grapefruit I found on sale.

But when my grandmother recently purged her belongings and moved to Austin, she gave me her old Champion, a beast of a machine that's more like a jet engine than juicer.

If you've been reading this column, this isn't the grandmother with the 19th-century bread knife who makes killer peach pies back in my small hometown in Missouri. This is my dad's mom, to whom, quite frankly, I've never been that close because their relationship has been so complicated. We spoke about five times over the course of 20 years. I didn't know much about her, and she didn't know much about me, that is, until the past few years when she and my dad started to rebuild their relationship.

After her husband died in April, she moved to Austin to be closer to my aunt. She brought with her the Champion and the red, shag-lined cover she sewed for it that makes it look like a Scottish terrier standing on your kitchen counter. Why? To give to me. (She kept the matching toaster cover.)

If food can be a language of love, so can food gadgetry. Like most grandmothers, Mimi speaks food (her macaroni and cheese and meatloaf are particularly eloquent), but it's easier, physically, on her now to give me something that I'll use again and again to feed myself and my family.

The juicer, it seems, was her peace offering. She might not see it that way, but I do. For the first time since I was 6, we're living in the same state and are now both finally willing to get to know each other as adults. After the long, rocky road that led our family to where we are, Mimi and I are essentially starting our relationship from scratch.

It's only been a few weeks since she moved down here, but in that time, we've seen each other more than we did during my entire adolescence. I'll drop by her house on the way to an interview in her far North Austin neighborhood. My husband and son are no longer strangers whose names she confuses. I'll call her, mid-juicing, to ask a question even if I don't really need the answer.

I admit that the first time I tried to use my new juicer, I regretted giving the old one away. My grandmother's heavy machine is hard to move in and out of the kitchen, and its parts are harder to clean, but it grinds foods, including nuts, far better than my little thrift-store juicer could and even allows you to puree them for soups. I'm slowly adjusting to this unwieldy presence in my kitchen that I'm beginning to realize I didn't even know I needed.

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504

Apple ginger ale

5 medium Granny Smith apples

1-2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger root

Juice the apples and ginger root together and serve over ice.

- From 'Raw Energy' by Stephanie Tourles (Storey Publishing, 2009)

Lemon pulpyseed muffins

5 ounces unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. poppy seeds

1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3 Tbsp. fruit or veggie pulp

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, honey and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and poppy seeds. Mix half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, then mix in yogurt and pulp. Mix in the rest of the flour. Pour into muffin tin lined with paper cups. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

- Michael and Amanda Joyner, owners of Retro Bizzaro Pastries

What goes in? Rinse it out

My grandmother only made carrot and celery juice with the juicer she recently passed on to me, but I'm more of a whatever's-on-sale kind of juicer. Juicing requires a lot of input for not very much output, so it makes sense, economically, to use what's in season and priced accordingly.

Cantaloupes, watermelon, peaches, cherries, pineapples, pears and plums are in their prime right now, but don't forget about cucumbers and tomatoes, which are well-suited for both sweet and savory juices. (For homemade V-8 juice, juice any combination of carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic, basil, cilantro, parsley, hot pepper, onion and lemon.)

In the colder months, juice made with citrus fruits and beets, spinach, carrots, broccoli or kale is a tasty immune booster, and I like apple ginger juice just about any time of year.

A colleague of mine makes homemade ginger ale by making a small amount of concentrated juice out of a Granny Smith apple and a quarter-inch piece of ginger and mixing it with Topo Chico. Homemade juice is an easy way to sneak in foods such as raw garlic, parsley and cayenne that are said to have healing properties.

But here's the best piece of juicing advice I ever received: Clean the machine right away. Juicers sit unused in cupboards because they have the reputation of being hard to clean, but this isn't the case if you spray down or rinse out the parts as soon as the last drop of juice falls in the glass.

Because you're breaking down raw produce before consuming it, freshly made juices make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients, but don't throw out the fibrous pulp that's left over. It stores well in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays.

You can often add a few tablespoons to banana bread or other moist cakes or muffins without adjusting the recipe, but Michael Joyner, Fino pastry chef and co-owner of Retro Bizzaro Pastries, shared a recipe for muffins that he developed specifically to use up leftover pulp. Another good way to use up the so-called chum is to add it to pancake batter, soups, stews or pasta sauce as a thickener and nutrient-booster.

- Addie Broyles