For years, the process of making juice, jams and jellies in my modern pioneer home, consisted of adding water to the fruits or berries of choice, boiling for a time, cooling, straining, and squeezing the fruit in flour sack tea towels. While this process served its purpose well, and is still a viable option to many, it has some drawbacks.
When adding water to the fruit, even in small quantities, you are diluting the juice from its original pure form, not to mention nutrients being broken down and lost during the boiling process. If not enough water is added, the risk of scorching the fruit and juice is there. Not only does this taint the flavor, but have you ever tried to scrape and clean the bottom of a pan or kettle that has burnt on sugary food? The work involved far surpasses the work of juicing and canning the juice, jam or jelly in question! One such time, in a desire to help me, (in truth, it was probably to get me to stop my excessive whining and complaining and get my language back to a level fit for a lady!) Papa took my jelly pot to the wood shop and worked on it with a wire brush. Keep in mind, this was an aluminum pot used by my Grandmother for at least two generations of canning before it was passed on to me. He actually rubbed holes in the bottom before getting the sticky charred mess from the bottom! Sadly, the pot is now only good for carrying in produce from the garden, and still has some remnants of the scorched food in the bottom.
Another problem? The mess! I don’t know about you, but every time I pour a liquid from one container to another, I spill some! Just imagine what my counters look like after boiling the fruit, transferring to another container through a straining cloth, then actually squeezing that cloth to get the last bits of liquid out, then transferring back to a pot to receive sugar, pectin or anything else that needs to be added, and finally ladling the finished food into jars…..yep, my counters would be covered with sticky, colored, liquid mess! And the time, I dropped the straining bag (tea towel) right into a large bowl of cherry juice…..I won’t begin to tell you how hard it is to get cherry juice off a textured ceiling!
Aside from the mess, risk of scorching, and adding water, the process works pretty well. But when I am cleaning up afterward, I wonder if that statement is akin to asking, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” If you miss the meaning of that one, doesn’t sweat it…..it’s an old sarcastic remark that have held onto since childhood.
Modern technology has improved many things, and juicing is one of them. We now have the opportunity to purchase electric juicers. These wonderful inventions are designed to juice your fruit, separating the waste (pulp, skins, and seeds). I have had more than one of these, and loved them, when compared to the only other alternative I had tried. They do work well when it comes to producing only pure juice and no heat is needed to encourage the breakdown and loss of nutrients. The juice typically retains some of the fruit pulp and therefore is a bit thicker than boiled juice, give you a head start on jelly and syrup. …..but…..and yes, of course, there is a but…..they still make a bit of a mess and cleaning one, takes only slightly less time than a snail crossing a 6 lane highway. Depending on the fruit, the tiny screens may get clogged with pulp, skin, and seeds. I have found nothing gets them very clean except allowing them to soak in hot water and using a toothbrush to scrub them from both sides. Generally the feeding chute is relatively small, and because of it’s size, you may need to cut your fruit into small pieces to fit into the juicer. Also, due to it’s size, only a small amount of produce can be juiced at one time, and the container receiving the pulp/seed mixture must be emptied frequently. Patience is needed, but the juice you end up with 100% pure juice. There does seem to be a bit of waste. After the pulp, skin and seeds are allowed to sit for several minutes, there is always more juice that seeps out, so straining the remaining pulpy mix may still be necessary if you want the most juice from the original product.
After dealing with disadvantages of juicing fruits and berries for many years, I stumbled onto some information about steam juicing. I initially had trouble envisioning how a steam juicer actually works, but the people who had them raved about their capabilities, no electricity was need, and large quantities of juice were said to be produced in a very short time. Papa and I have a large fruit press, and use it for apple and pear cider, but it was just not practical for small fruits and berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc. in the quantities I would use for jellies, juices and syrups. After talking with others and doing some additional research, Papa decided I needed one for my birthday this year. Though it was a bit pricy for a kitchen item….with no motor….I have no regrets at all!
This juicer will hold almost 3 gallon of small fruits or berries. There is no need to pit or stem them, all you have to do is wash them, place water in the bottom, turn on the stove and wait about 30-45 minutes, perhaps longer depending on the fruit, and you will have 100% pure juice ready for additional ingredients and processing! It’s almost like magic. There is still heat involved, so some of the nutrients may be lost, but the loss is minimal since the fruit and/or juice never comes to a boil. Since getting it, I have done strawberry juice, blueberry juice and blackberry juice that was then turned into fruit syrups with the addition of sugar and heat. I have also done some grape juice for the first time in many years.
The steam juicer is actually 4 stainless steel pieces, along with a drain tube, clamp and plug.
The sieve basket sits on top of the cone. The steam rises to heat the fruit and extract the juice.
The juice is then drained from the cone, through tubing, into your container.
The steam juicer is not a new concept. Steam juicers have been sold for many years and some vintage juicers can be found if you watch flea markets, yard sales, craigslist, ebay, etc for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Papa bought mine from Lehman’s and we have no regrets at all in the purchase. In fact, I love mine so much, I just bought a couple more off some FaceBook sales sites. I will keep one to have extra juicing capabilities and will gift one to friends who have a large Blackberry farm that will in peak production next year. I am looking forward to learning to do other things with my steam juicer as well. One of the tips I have read just today it to steam your tomatoes, extracting a lot of the juice and using the steamed tomatoes for salsa, ketchup, sauces. This is said to save a lot of cooking time when making thick sauces and condiments. The idea makes perfect sense and I will be trying it next week when I start making and canning some of my tomato products. I will let you know how it works. For those who use a steam juicer, I look forward to hearing how you utilize your in food prep and canning in your modern pioneering life.