How to Make Homemade Fruit (Cherries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Etc) Juice - Easily, Fully Illustrated Instructions and Recipe!
This month's notes: May 2015: Spring IS here! Strawberries and blueberries each have a very brief season; don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions
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Yield: 7 to 9 pint jarsMaking 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
Elderberry Juice-making Directions
This example shows you how to make elderberry juice!
Step 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
Sugar syrup proportions for 7 to 9-pint jars of elderberries (double it for 9 quart jars)
Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (tm)
|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?
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
||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 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|
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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