Making your own apple juice
Turning windfalls into autumn’s elixir…Posted Oct 29, 2009
As anyone who has fruit trees knows, a lot of fruit goes to waste. Woodpecker holes, worm holes, bug damage and bruises occur on a considerable portion of the harvest. Imperfect fruit will not last in storage and can ruin other fruit it is stored with. A great way to avoid this waste is to make your own juice.
And the benefits of juicing are not limited to those with fruit trees in their yard or orchard. Just visit a farmer’s market at the close of day on any autumn weekend, or check in with your local produce mart; there’s often a surplus of fruit which may be overripe, bruised or flawed. Or you can visit any farm or orchard and ask to gather windfalls. The eager gleaner can usually come home with a free load of imperfect apples.
Converting our surplus apples into juice seemed to make good sense
Although we’ve had our own small orchard for many years, we’ve never really had an over-abundance of apples. Our growing family kept ahead of the harvest, we were able to store many as winter keepers, and the raccoons and woodpeckers took care of the windfalls. The damaged fruit we collected was usually made into apple sauce or apple crisps. But this year an unusually large fruit set, coupled with the kids now grown and out of the home, had us thinking beyond apple sauce. Converting our surplus apples into juice seemed to make good sense.
- Is economical, as organic juices are expensive.
- Is practical. The juice is easy to store, and the leftover pulp can be dried into fruit leather or added to the compost.
- Encourages the family to consume more fruit.
- Involves children in a rewarding project. They can see the end reward of caring for your fruit trees all year.
- Is a good use for early summer apples which may not store well, like Transparents and Gravensteins
- Creates a very tasty beverage.
Being convinced of the merits of this idea, I decided to give juicing a try. My neighbour and garden mentor makes juice and wines from his produce so he gave me advice on getting started. He loaned me his German AEG macerating juicer (250 amps) which has a small motor and feeding chute. The small feeding chute, about 2” diameter, required cutting the apples into smaller chunks, about 2”cubed. The juicing process seemed to go quickly with about 7 minutes of feeding for one quart of juice, approximately 6-7 apples.
I would suggest borrowing a juicer as we did for your first try at juicing. It will give you a feel for the process and help you make a more informed decision about whether to get your own juicer and how large it should be.
The biggest time consumer was preparing the fruit before juicing.
The biggest time consumer was preparing the fruit before juicing. I had to trim rotten spots and cut the rest into a big bowl. From there my right hand would grab a handful of chunks and toss them into the chute, while my left hand would propel the plastic plunger and fruit toward the whirling disk. The juice would spurt to the left into a container and the seeds and fibre flowed into a container attached to the right side. This I would empty every half hour or so. The pulp residue could be a good contribution to the compost or the chicken yard, or it can also be spread onto a cookie sheet and dried into fruit leather. To keep things simple, I composted the pulp.
I was surprised that there was so much foam on top of the juice, which I skimmed with a slotted spoon. Also, at the bottom of a quart of juice would be about 1/2” of sediment, which is perfectly drinkable, but might not be appealing to some folks. Pouring the juice through a cheesecloth-lined sieve would remove much of the foam and sediment.
My small initial experiment yielded 7 quart jars of beautiful rose-hued apple juice. To ensure safe storage I decided to can them. (Beware, once you start juicing, you can’t stop.) My canning books advised heating the juice in a big pot until 200F./93C., but not to boil, then pour into hot, sterilized jars leaving ½” headroom, cap with hot lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. The water should be 190F. And cover tops of jars one or two inches. This is pasteurization.
Other options are:
- Store in fridge up to 7 days
- Freeze up to a year
- Pasteurize to 160F., which will give the juice a fridge life of up to 3 weeks
My conclusions about the process were mixed. It was most satisfying to get this beautiful pale pink juice from my windfall apples. My husband says the taste is incomparable to store-bought juice, and I modestly have to agree. The juice is truly autumn’s elixir. And it’s no problem encouraging people to eat more apples (a constant meme at our home this time of year) – everyone who visits wants a glass. And another.
But the process needs streamlining before I jump into juicing on a larger scale. It was quite a production with foam and pulp abounding, and took time to clean up. The bottleneck was the small 2” feed chute on the little juicer. This not only slowed the process of juicing, it added greatly to the preparation time since the apples had to cut into small pieces. It became readily apparent that a larger juicer would better suit my needs.
So, I went to the internet to find a model which would improve the process. A tip: the term “juice extractor” produced more results than” fruit juicer”. Generally I learned about these types: macerating, centrifugal, and large types, often home-made, which grind or crush the fruit and then press the juice out. The first two types are usually smaller counter-top models, and suitable for the non-commercial home juicer. Of these, my research points to the three centrifugal “Juice Fountains”, manufactured by Breville, as the best choice for home juicing. These powerful models range from 850 W. to 1000W. From independent reviews on Amazon.com and others and from the manufacturer’s claims they sound fast (8 oz. of apple juice in 5 seconds); handle whole or large chunks of produce; are easy to assemble and clean; and are made using durable and rust-free components. The cost for the mid-range model is about $300.
So if you’re interested in enjoying fresh wholesome juice from your gathered fruit, I suggest you start small with a borrowed juicer if possible, and then you’ll have a good idea of what the ideal juicer is for your needs.
So if you’re interested in enjoying fresh wholesome juice from your gathered fruit, I suggest you start small with a borrowed juicer if possible, and then you’ll have a good idea of what the ideal juicer is for your needs. When you decide on the right model, you can go in on the purchase with a few friends, since juicing is a seasonal activity and the machine can be passed around as needed. It might also be a fun group activity to get together and divide the tasks working with friends. In either case, you’ll find that making your own juice can be thrifty, healthy and fun.