I am up to my elbows in berries. I am not complaining. I don’t know what things are like at your house when it comes to berries, but at my house, we love them. We grow strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, and have access to local blueberries. I do freeze a lot of berries for winter use (It is super easy — click here to see how!) . I also make jam, conserves, and preserves. One more method of preserving berries is to make juice. Berry juice (especially blueberry juice) seems to be a hot health food item again. Berry juice is full of antioxidants and vitamins. However, if you purchase it in a store, it may also be full of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
Once you make the juice, you can freeze what you are not going to use immediately. There is no sweetener added when you first make the juice, so you can sweeten to taste, depending upon the sweetness of the berries using you sweetener of choice!
There are many “camps” when it comes to sweeteners and overall health. Most people agree that refined sugar is not very good for you, but what to use and alternative? There are as many options as there are opinions. As I always say, do your research and make an informed decision based on what seems best to you.
- In a large non-reacitve pot, put equal amounts of berries and filtered water.
- Bring the water up to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, mashing the berries as much as possible. Turn off the heat.
Using a funnel:
- Put a large funnel over a container large enough to hold the amount of liquid in the pot.
- Line the funnel with a coffee filter, multiple layers of cheese cloth, or a clean piece of old cotton sheet (I have several pieces from old cotton sheets that I use for this purpose).
- Using a ladle, transfer the contents of the pot to the container. As the funnel empties, add more liquid. You may need to change the coffee filter/empty the berry mash from the cloth periodically.
- BE PATIENT! This takes a while. Do not press the contents of the funnel. You could end of with bits of berry in the juice and may result in a cloudy final appearance.
Using a Sieve (mesh strainer):
- Put a sieve over a container large enough to hold the amount of liquid in the pot.
- Line the sieve with multiple layers of cheese cloth, or a clean piece of old cotton sheet (I have several pieces from old cotton sheets that I use for this purpose).
- Using a ladle, transfer the contents of the pot to the sieve.
- BE PATIENT! This takes a while. Do not press the contents of the sieve. You could end of with bits of berry in the juice and may result in a cloudy final appearance.
Once you have strained out the mash, you have concentrated juice. It is all berry juice, and since most berries are tart, you need to taste it and adjust the sweetness. If you are going to use the juice right away, sweeten with your preferred sweetener.
If you are going to freeze the juice, choose containers of a size that will allow you to use all of what you are defrosting (for example, if you want to have enough juice for four servings at a time, choose a quart sized container rather than something larger). Be sure the containers you are using a freezer-safe. Label the containers with the contents and the date you are putting it in the freezer. Distribute the juice among your containers and be sure to leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of the container. DO NOT OVERFILL! When you defrost the juice, add sweetener to taste.
If I have a little more juice than will comfortable fit in the containers, I make ice cubes out of it and add them to smoothies, and sometimes sauces. But that is fodder for another post!
Using the Juice
Some people like the juice in this concentrated form. If that is you, go for it! If you are like me, I think it is a bit much and prefer it diluted, so I add water or seltzer.
The juice can also be used to make jelly, following the instructions on your preferred package of pectin.