The apple harvest is starting and we’re just finishing the juice I bottled last season so it’s time to put down another batch. This was the first attempt I’d made at preserving fruit juice in it’s un-fermented form and it was a real success. It stored well in a cool cupboard, tasted great and didn’t ferment in the bottle.
Here are the basic steps for bottling your own fruit juice. I did apple juice but you can make your own blends and if you don’t have a cider press an electric juice extractor will do the same job, just with a bit more sediment.
Collecting Fresh Juice
Collect fresh juice from your press into plastic, glass or stainless steel containers. Stored at room temperature, the juice will quickly start to oxidise and go a dark brown colour. This oxidisation is part of cider making but if you want to make juice for drinking, you may not want this oxidisation to occur so follow the steps below.
Preparing Juice for Bottling
Strain the fresh juice through a stainless steel sieve and add approximately ¼ of a teaspoon of vitamin C powder and ¼ of a teaspoon of pectolase enzyme for every liter of juice. Both of these are natural additives that help you achieve a clear and shelf stable juice once it is bottled. Pop the juice into the fridge to settle for at least 6 hours, overnight if you can. If you don’t let it settle before you bottle and pasteurise it, you will get big lumps of scummy apple solid foam in the top of your bottles. Keeping it in the fridge stops it from starting to ferment.
Pasteurising your Bottled Juice
Bring the juice out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature. Sterilise glass bottles or preserving jars and their lids in boiling water or by putting them in the oven with the lids off for 30 minutes at 60C. Glass juice jars from the supermarket with rubber lined metal screw lids are ideal but you can also successfully use plastic soft drink bottles with plastic screw caps. If you are using plastic bottles sterilise them with sterilising agent used for home brewing.
Fill the jars or bottles with the juice, leaving at least 2.5cm head space in each one because the juice expands when you cook it. Leaving the lids off, place the jars or bottles into a wide deep pot on the stove and fill it with water at least ¾ of the way up the bottles. Heat the water gently to 75C then hold it there for 30 minutes. Put a clean thermometer into the jar or bottle in the middle of the pot and if the juice has reached at least 74C then the natural yeasts and bacteria that would start fermenting should no longer be present.
Remove the bottles and sit on a wooden chopping board, not on a cold bench or they will crack. Have the lids or seals sitting in a pot of boiling water. Drain the lids, screw the lids on while hot and leave to cool down. Any metal lids that don’t indent to form a seal put in the fridge and consume within a week. Make sure bottles are well rinsed on the outside before storage or mould will develop on the outside of bottles from any juice residue.
These bottles will store unrefrigerated in a cool pantry or shelf for up to a year.
Blends of Juices
Experiment with juice blends using your press. You may have apple as your base and add small quantity of another stronger flavoured juice such as feijoa, blackcurrant or boysenberry and taste prior to heat treating your juice. Mix small quantities first to establish a ratio of apple to other juice that suits your taste before mixing up all your juice. If you have a sweet desert apple, mixing in ¼ of crab apple or quince juice gives a nice sharpness and a lovely colour to your juice.