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!

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Yield: 7 to 9 pint jars

Making and canning / bottling your own elderberry juice,  is quite easy. Here's how to do it, in 12 easy steps and completely illustrated. 
See this page for more information about elderberries!

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Elderberries -  See step 2 for quantities.
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Sugar - Optional - or other sweeteners - natural or artificial - it's your choice to use any or none. I can't tell you how much to add - it's 0 to 3 cups - depending upon your taste!
  • Strainers - a jelly strainer and/or cheesecloth are needed.  A Foley food mill really speeds up the process and extracts more. see step 6 for pictures and where to buy the strainers and food mill.
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is available online - see this page. It's a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price:

 

 

  • At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
  • 1 Water Bath Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell canners and supplies here, too - at excellent prices - and it helps support this web site!
  • Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $7 per dozen 8 ounce jars including the lids and rings)
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.

Optional stuff:

  • Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at big box stores or it comes in the kit at left)

Elderberry Juice-making Directions

This example shows you how to make elderberry juice!

elderberry bushStep 1 - Pick the elderberries! (or buy them already picked)

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones! 

I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time.

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! 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. The only tedious part is removing the berries from the stems!

Remove the fruit from the stems and pick out any stems and leaves that became mixed in!

 

 




Step 4 - Heat the fruit on the stove

Put the berries 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 5 - Make and heat the syrup

While the berries are heating is a good time to make the syrup. Depending upon which type of sweetener you want to use (sugar, no-sugar, Stevia (but you will have to experiment with amount, each brand of Stevia is a different concetration), or Splenda, or a mix of sugar and Stevia (or Splenda) or fruit juice) you will need to use a different syrup from below. Adding syrup to canned fruit helps to retain its flavor, color, and shape. It does not prevent spoilage of these foods. Heat the syrup to near boiling in a pot.

Most people prefer the medium syrup (highlighted) or elderberry juice with added sugar!


 

Sugar syrup proportions for 7 to 9-pint jars of elderberries (double it for 9 quart jars)

  Type of syrup
(Choose ONE)
Water
(cups)
Fruit
juice
(cups)
Sugar
(cups)
Powdered
Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (tm)
1 Plain water 7 0 0 0
2 no calorie sweetener 7 0 0 1/4 cup
3 Fruit juice (white grape or peach juice works well) 0 7 0  
4 Reduce calorie / fruit juice 4 3 0  
5 Fruit juice and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) 0 7 0 1/2 cup
6 very low calorie 7 0 1/4 1/4 cup
7 very light (10% sugar) 7 0 1 0
8 light (20% sugar) 6 0 2 0
9 medium (30% sugar) 6 0 3 0
  • Nutrasweet (aspartame) will NOT work - it breaks down during heating).
  • Honey can be used, substituting 1 for 1 with sugar, but may separate.
  • Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (sucralose) substitutes exactly with sugar BUT even the manufacturers of Splenda will tell you that you get best results if you just use a 50-50 mix; half regular sugar and half Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda).  Same goes for Stevia.
  • Sugar not only affects the sweetness, but also the color and flavor.  It does not affect the preserving or spoilage properties - that has to do with acid and the processing method.

Step 6 - Sieve the cooked elderberries

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 seeds and solids behind.

Discard the dry pulp. The yield of the juice should be about 4½ to 5 cups.  

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, fruit 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?

Get them all here, delivered direct to your home, at the best prices on the internet!

 

 

Step 9 - Sweeten (if desired) and bring to a boil

I find that homemade elderberry 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
5 min
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..

 


Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter - to remove lids from the pot of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid - disposable - you may only use them once
  4. Ring - holds the lids on the jar until after the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars

 

 

You can get all of the tools in a kit here:

Ball home canning kit water bath canner

Home Canning Kits

Features:

  • Everything you need to get started with waterbath canning (fruits,pickles, jams, jellies, salsa, sauces and tomatoes)
  • 21-1/2 qt. enamel water bath canner
  • Funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, bubble freer spatula
  • Ball Blue Book

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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Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Elderberry 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
Total $15.70 total
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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Answers to Common Questions

  • Why should cooked juice be made in small batches?
    If a larger quantity of juice is used, it will be necessary to boil it longer thus causing loss of flavor, darkening of juice, and toughening of juice. It really doesn't work. Trust me; I've tried many times!
  • Can I use frozen or bottled juice instead of fresh?
    Yep! Good flavored fruit can be hard to find fresh and are expensive! Juice works just fine, just start with step 7. Just be sure to get unsweetened juice.  You can use frozen concentrate; just follow the directions on the package in terms of how much water to add.
  • What do I do if there's mold on my jellied fruit product?
    Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (poisonous substance that can make you sick). USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or juice.
  • Why did my jellied fruit product ferment, and what do I do?
    Jellied fruit products may ferment because of yeast growth. This can occur if the product is improperly processed and sealed, or if the sugar content is low. Fermented fruit products have a disagreeable taste. Discard them.
  • I just finished making my second batch of elderberry juice.  The first one came out perfect, the second one is not clear like the first.    I'm sure the taste is fine, it's just the appearance.
    You can clarify the juice more next time.  Try filtering it through several layers of cheesecloth or muslin - or even coffee filters.  Also try avoiding any contact with metals - use plastic, glass and/or Teflon coated bowls and cookware - acids in the juice may react with the metals to become cloudy!
  • What happens if my jam or juice doesn't gel?
    Remaking cooked runny jam or juice instructions can be found on this page

 

 

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