It’s the height of the summer harvest season here in the northern hemisphere, and the southern one will see a huge influx of berries and early spring fruits in the very near future, all of which can be enjoyed in the moment and preserved for later. Produce never tastes as good as when it’s naturally in season (and local!), and the fruits or vegetables we preserve at this time of year will taste so much better than the pallid, imported offerings we’ll find at the supermarket over the winter. Juices are summery delights that are incredibly easy to preserve, as they only require a water bath instead of a pressure-canner, so grab some local produce and get canning!
The main reason that we’re focusing on canning fruit juices is because they can generally be processed in a water bath. Although the juices from carrots, beets, and other vegetables are spectacular, their low acidity levels require them to be processed via pressure canner. If you have one, do feel free to try out different veggie juice recipes, but if you’re just going to can via water bath, stick to those that have higher acidity; we don’t want anyone dying of botulism for the sake of home preservation experiments.
In fact, before you begin, I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with safe home canning procedures. Those of you who have been canning food for years probably don’t need a refresher course, but it’s important for novice canners to know the ins and outs of safe preservation. Books such as The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, and Putting Food By are spectacular resources that you can refer to again and again over the years, and are great to have at hand for when inspiration strikes.
Canning Fruit Juices
There are a couple of different techniques for preparing fruit juice, namely simmering the fruit in water until soft and straining it through a jelly bag, or putting the fruits through a juicer. As far as personal experience goes, I like to put apples and citrus fruits through my juicer because it’ll extract all that glorious liquid with far less effort than wringing the boiled flesh through cheesecloth. For berries and soft-fleshed (acidic) fruits, I use the simmering method and then press everything through a fine mesh strainer. Please keep in mind that if you do juice your fruit first, you still have to simmer it for a few minutes before ladling into your sterilized jars while hot.
What You’ll Need
- Clean glass jars with lids and screw-on bands (like pint- or quart-size Mason jars)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- A large pot with a lid for the water bath
- Bottled concentrated lemon juice (to add extra acidity for safe preservation)
- A plastic bubble remover, or thin plastic spatula
- A large-mouthed funnel
- Cooking thermometer (when you simmer juices, try to get them to around 190F)
- Jelly bags, fine cheesecloth, fine-mesh strainer
- Additional canning tools, such as tongs to lift jars, and a magnetic lid lifter: the latter comes in handy because the lids have to be kept in hot water until they’re ready to be used, while the tongs are helpful for moving the hot jars from the pot to a countertop so they can cool down.
When doing water bath canning, be sure to fill your canning pot halfway with water and bring it to a simmer around the same time that you prepare the food you’ll be canning. Once the jars are filled, you’ll place them gently into the simmering water, ensuring that all the jars are covered with 1-2 inches of water. Keep a kettle of water on low heat nearby so that you can top up the water bath as needed without lowering the water’s temperature.
You can either make a pure juice from one type of berry, or a mixture of a few: strawberry/raspberry juice is lovely, and boysenberry/blackberry/raspberry is beyond amazing. The amount of berries you use will determine how many jars you’ll fill: just sip the leftovers or add them to your favorite smoothie.
Rinse your berries well, being sure to remove any errant stems or leaves, and then pour them into a large saucepan with about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer them until they’re soft, and then strain them through a damp jelly bag or a few layers of fine cheesecloth. Measure how much juice was created, and add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sugar for every 8 cups of juice, depending on how sweet you’d like yours to be.
Reheat the juice for a few minutes until it just starts to dance a bit, but don’t allow it to boil. Turn the heat off, and ladle the hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the mouths of the jars clean, put on the lids and screw-on bands, but don’t tighten the bands too much. Boil these jars in your water bath canner for 15 minutes, regardless of whether you’re using pint or quart jars.