How to Make Homemade Fruit (Cherries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Etc) Juice - Easily, Fully Illustrated Instructions and Recipe!
This month's notes: April 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
Yield: 7 to 9 pint jarsMaking and canning / bottling your own fruit juice, from many types of fruit, such as berries of any kind (blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) or larger fruit (cherries, peaches, etc.) is quite easy. Here's how to do it, in 12 easy steps and completely illustrated.
Ingredients and Equipment
Grape Juice-making Directions
This example shows you how to make grape juice, or juice from muscadines, scuppernongs and even berries, like raspberries, blueberries, etc..
Step 1 - Pick the fruit! (or buy them already picked)
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones! You can use many types of fruit, such as berries of any kind (blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) or larger fruit (cherries, peaches, etc.) or grapes, including muscadines and scuppernongs. And as I pointed out above, you can use other types of berries, or mix them! Whichever you choose, you want flavorful grapes. Plain seedless white/green grapes, for example, have little flavor and make a bland juice. Most people choose Concord grapes or red grapes. Seedless or with seeds doesn't matter, as the strainer will remove them (except for very small seeds like strawberry, but most people don't care about those)!
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time.
Above are grapes that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
Step 2 - How much fruit?
An average of 25 pounds of fruit is typically needed per canner load of 7 quarts of fruit juice. Of course, this varies, if the fruit has large pits, stones or other waste. Or to make 9 pints of juice, you'll need an average of 16 pounds of fruit. If you are buying in bulk, a "lug" weighs 26 pounds and yields 7 to 9 quarts of juice; which is an average of 3-1/2 pounds of fruit needed per quart of juice.
Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny juice), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot juice.
Step 3 -Wash the fruit!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a large bowl under running plain cold water.
Remove the fruit from the stems and pick out any stems and leaves that became mixed in!
Step 4 - Crush or chop the fruit (optional)
You can cook the fruit with out first chopping or crushing them, but I find it speeds up the process. It's up to you! A simple potato masher (far right) works fine, or a food processor, below. You could also use a juicer
NOTE: If you have a electric juicer, you can simply juice the fruit, then skip to step 7 to heat the juice to boiling.
Step 5 - Heat the fruit on the stove
Put the berries or other fruit in a pot and add enough water to just cover the fruit. Put the crushed fruit in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning) for until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. We just want to soften the skins to help release the juice and break down some of the fruit to help it pass through our juice strainer.
Step 6 - Sieve the cooked fruit
You can either put the soft cooked fruit through a juice strainer (about $9.00, see ordering at right) which results in the most clear juice and is easiest to use, or pour them through cheesecloth in a colander. Or if you don't mind chunky juice, just let the juice stand for 20 minutes, and decant (pour off) the clear liquid to use and leave the solids behind.
You may also want to run the crushed cooked fruit through a Foley food mill (about $20 - see this page) BEFORE the juice strainer - unless you ran the fruit through a juicer, the food mill would help to extract more juice and separate the seeds, stems and skins that will clog the strainer. It's not necessary, but helps you get the most out of the fruit.
If you need a stopping point and want to finish up the next day, this is a good place. Sometimes, juice gets crystals, called tartrate crystals, forming in the juice. They're not harmful and don't affect the taste, but some people don't like the appearance. I rarely even see them! But if you do, let juice stand in a in the fridge overnight, then strain through two thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove any crystals that have formed.
There is also a VERY nice, versatile strainer pictured at far right! Click on the links there or see the bottom of this page for more information and to order! The VillaWare model can handle higher volumes than a Foley food mill (without giving you cramps!)
To see a greater variety of strainers in other types, sizes, and prices, click here!
Step 7 - Polishing and further filtering
If you read the USDA's guide, they have additional steps to polish the juice so it is crystal clear. I don't bother with these as it adds a day or two to the process and most people like the natural look, anyway!
But if you do want the polished look, here what to do:
- Refrigerate juice from step 6 for 24 to 48 hours.
- Without mixing, shaking or disturbing it, carefully pour off clear liquid and save; discard the sediment.
- If desired, you may now strain through a paper coffee filter for a clearer juice.
- Continue to step 8.
Step 8 - Get the lids warming in hot (but not boiling) water
If you didn't do so already, put the lids into a pan of hot water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
Step 9 - Sweeten (if desired) and bring to a boil
I find that homemade grape juice, made using sweet fresh fruit, rarely needs any additional sweetness. However if you have a sweet tooth or are using very tart fruit, this is the time to add your sweetener (sugar, Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda), honey, etc.).
Bring the juice to a boil.
Step 10 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on
Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled juice off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs come in really handy!
Step 11 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling.
See the table below for the length of time to process the jars recommended for your altitude and size of jars used.
Recommended process time for Fruit Juice in a boiling-water canner.
|Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 - 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
|Pints or Quart jars
||10 minutes||15 minutes|
|Half-Gallon jars||10min||15 minutes||20 minutes|
Step 12 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!
Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months if kept in a cool dark place, like a basement..
From left to right:
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to juices and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars and lids (and the jars are reusable). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Canning & Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for juice, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Grape Juice - makes 12 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2005||Source||Subtotal|
|Fruit||4 lbs||$1.00/lb||Pick your own||$4.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||12 jars||$7.00/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$7.00|
|Sugar||4 cups||$2.00||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.00|
or about $1.30 per jar
** - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars and reduce the cost further; just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!
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