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 andcitrus 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.
Golden Fruit Medley
This will yield about 8 pints (16 cups). Feel free to use honey tangerines instead or oranges, or nectarines instead of peaches.
- 4 cups of orange juice (12-16 oranges, peeled and juiced)
- 4 cups pineapple juice (2-3 pineapples, peeled and juiced)
- 4 cups grapefruit juice (6-10 grapefruits, depending on size, peeled and juiced)
- 4 cups peach puree (2 pounds of peaches, peeled, pitted, and put through a blender)
Blend all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat until it starts to simmer a little bit; do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that may have accumulated on the surface. Ladle this liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Clean the mouths, adjust your lids and screw-on bands, and process in your boiling water bath for 20-25 minutes.
Not everyone has a sweet tooth, of course, so instead of canning berry and other fruit juices, you can also preserve bright, luscious vegetable juices for the colder months. It’s absolutely gorgeous to open a jar of tomato juice in the middle of January and taste all the flavors you enjoyed in July; I make a point of hiding a few jars in among pickled veggies and such so I keep a few out of immediate sight just in case I need a pick-me-up in March (or even April…) when there’s still snow on the ground.
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (consider that 3 medium-sized tomatoes = 1 pound)
- Bottled lemon juice
Wash the tomatoes, drain them well, and then cut an X in their bottoms before submerging them in boiling water for a minute or two to loosen their peels. Remove the peels, cores, and seeds, and then put the remaining tomato flesh through your juicer. Pour this juice into a saucepan and heat until it simmers a bit, but don’t allow it to boil. Ladle this hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace, and add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice into each pint jar, or 2 tablespoons into each quart jar.
Adjust the two-piece caps (lids and screw-on bands) and process for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath, adding extra water if the level drops during the process. With tomato juice, you can also add a little bit of salt, or if desired, you can make it a seasoned tomato cocktail by adding some garlic powder, hot sauce, and dry herbs (like basil and oregano) into the saucepan during the juice-simmering step.
Tomato-Based Vegetable Blend
This should yield approximately 8 pints of juice.
- 10 or 11 pounds of tomatoes (so around 30 medium-sized fruits)
- 1/4 cup diced raw carrots
- 1/4 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Bottled lemon juice
Prepare the tomatoes in the same manner as for the tomato juice listed above, then cut into wedges and simmer with the other vegetables in a large saucepan with an added 1/2 cup of water for 20 minutes or so. Stir constantly to keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once simmered, puree everything in a blender or food processor and then strain through a layer of cheesecloth. Heat the juice until it simmers a bit (don’t allow it to boil) for 5 minutes or so, then remove from heat. Add the salt and stir well. Ladle the hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace, and then add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, or 1 1/2 teaspoons to each half-pint jar, if you’re using them. Place and adjust the lids and bands, and then process for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath.
These are just a few juice ideas to spark your creativity, but there are countless different recipes out there to explore. Most fruits have a high enough acidity level that you can can them with a water bath, and it’s great to be able to pop open a jar of homemade grapefruit, cherry, or grape juice when the fruits themselves are out of season. Be sure to do your research about different fruit acidity levels before you decide to can a batch, and remember that since these juices don’t have preservatives in them, they’ll only keep for 48-72 hours in your refrigerator once opened. As with any home-canned food, check the jars carefully when you open them, and if the contents smell “off” or have any kind of mold or unidentifiable particles in them, pour them out and sterilize the jar. Another tip is to remove the metal rings from your jarsbefore storing them: not only will this keep your bands from rusting in storage, but if the contents have gone bad, the gases inside the jars will pop the lids right off.