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I poured squeezed orange juice over my meatballs and I thought how well it complements them, but that it's too watery to enjoy with meat. I proceeded to reduce squeezed orange juice on the stove with and without starch and it just did not work - it's either too watery, or when reduced to a proper texture it's like sugar paste with orange flavoring.

How can I enjoy the flavor of orange juice on meat as a condiment while reducing it's wateriness?

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2  
So you want the orange citrus flavor, but not the concentrated sweetness, correct? – Erica Feb 26 at 11:45
5  
You might consider using orange oil instead of concentrating the juice (although orange zest might work like people are saying, but it might have dyes and waxes in it). Orange oil is pretty flavorful. – Shule Feb 26 at 23:31
    
@erica correct Erica – Bar Akiva Feb 26 at 23:32
    
Are you aware of orange juice concentrate, available in can-shaped things in many grocery stores? (although I'd still use zest, rather than go that route, as it'll likely be too sweet) – Joe Feb 27 at 16:16
2  
Use a less sweet orange; Valencia rather than Navel. There are plenty of different varieties, of varying sweetness. Rotary evaporation under vacuum is preserves flavor better than does boiling. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 27 at 23:30
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The only good way I know of to concentrate fresh orange juice and maintain the flavor is by removing the water. But not by heating it, as the heat will destroy the flavor.

You need a vacuum distiller or freeze dryer for your orange juice. Pulling a vacuum will boil the juice at room temperature, removing the water without adding any heat.

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Heating does ruin the taste and make it taste like sugar paste. Great suggestion! – Bar Akiva Feb 26 at 19:56
    
A Rotovap is the technical piece of equipment that you need - there are ones designed for kitchens, but they aren't cheap. – Tom H Feb 28 at 13:56
    
It was originally a chemistry tool that's been appropriated for use in the kitchen - there's a good guide on how to use one for cooking here: cookingissues.com/index.html%3Fp=78.html – Tom H Feb 28 at 13:57

How about using orange zest instead of the juice? That way you'll get a lot of the aroma and flavor we think of as "orange" without really changing the sweetness or acidity.

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My thought too. We used orange zest (scrapings from the peel) for a cooking project at school way-back-when, paired with chicken, and it worked well providing you don't over zest it and start digging into the bitter fibre underneath. – Carcigenicate Feb 27 at 12:36

You might try zesting the orange, reducing the juice a bit, and then adding the zest to the syrup and then cooking it down a bit more. You may or may not wish to strain it after letting the zest cook for a minute or so.

If you do this, take care. I believe cooking it too long will make the zest overly bitter.

Alternatively, you could use frozen orange juice concentrate.

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You have a couple of solutions:

  • Make it thicker with agar agar instead of starch
  • Use something like jam or marmalade

The latter might be to close of the sugary paste you dislike. However agar agar contrary to starch has a really wide range of thickening. You can just make things from a tiny bit thicker than water to jelly. More over the boiling needed will reduce it a bit already.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agar#Culinary

You might want to experiment a bit with it to find the right dosage. Jelly cubes between your meatballs would work rather well. As contrary to a liquid sauce they won't spread, keeping flavors separated.

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3  
Some English marmalades are rather less sweet than most oranges, so might be appropriate here. – David Richerby Feb 26 at 17:18
3  
I’m vegetarian, so I can’t speak for meatballs specifically, but English-style marmalades can work beautifully as a component or accompaniment of savoury dishes. – PLL Feb 26 at 17:38

If you have enough time, you could make an orange extract. Just peel pieces of zest from several oranges (avoid the white pith) and soak them in vodka for a couple of weeks, then filter it. Then you could add it to the pan like wine, boiling off the alcohol (assuming you don't want alcohol in your sauce). You could also follow a homemade orange liqueur recipe, but they might add too much sugar for your use (Here is one from Serious Eats).

It's probably easier to just use zest directly in most cases, though.

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I've poached white fish in orange juice with hot chili peppers (I used dried chipotle or even habanero, but I think the recipe called for fresh).

I reduced the cooking liquid a bit, and poured some onto the rice I served the fish with.

It was pretty potent, esp. the time I made it with habanero, though! There was some nice orange flavour, and the heat of the chilis made the sugar of reduced orange juice not a problem. (It was juice from concentrate, not fresh-squeezed. I maybe could have mixed up concentrate with less water instead of reducing for as long after taking the fish out. :P)

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