Homemade apple juice tastes so much better than store-bought juice, and you can preserve it without added stabilizers or sugar. Learn how to make apple juice and home can it for your food storage shelves.
Tips for Making Apple Juice
Apple juice is made by cooking apples with water and straining it to separate the juice from the solids. It is then heated, poured into jars, and processed in a water bath canner to make it shelf stable. Here are tips for a making and preserving a flavorful apple juice:
Use a Variety of Apples
Each apple has unique sweet, acid, or astringent properties. Choose ripe apples that are naturally sweet, and you won’t miss the sugar. A few tart apples should also be included because they add more flavor and natural tannic acid that helps preserve flavor.
We have eight apple trees on our property. Although we are unsure about the varieties, we do know that there are at least three types, four if you include the crabapple tree.
The best tasting apple juice I have made came from a blend of apples from our yard along with others from a local u-pick orchard. Most orchards also offer what they call, seconds at a lower price. These apples may not look pretty, but they are perfect for making apple juice.
Apple Cider vs. Apple Juice
Both apple cider and apple juice are a fruit beverage made from apples. The major difference is cider is a raw, unfiltered juice that contains apple pulp and sediment. It us usually made by pressing or crushing the apples and collecting the juice. While apple juice is filtered to remove the solids, and pasteurized so it will last longer.
How to Make Apple Juice
You don’t need an apple press to make apple juice. You just need a way to heat the apples to break down the fruit so it releases juice. Then the juice is strained from the solids by letting it drip through a jelly bag or layers of cheesecloth. There are several ways you can accomplish this using common kitchen equipment:
- Heat Apples on the Stove: You can cook the apples in a large pot with water until softened, and then strain the apple pulp to let the juice drip through a jelly bag.
- Use a Pressure Cooker: An electric multi-functional pressure cooker (such as Instant Pot) is a fast way to cook the apples. You will need to do two batches of apples. Place about 6 pounds of the prepared apples, and 1/2 cup of water into the pressure cooker. Cover and set it to Pressure Cook for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally after the cooking cycle is complete. Open the lid, stir the apples, and strain to separate the solids from the juice. Add about 3 cups of additional water when you re-heat the juice to can it.
- Use a Steam Juicer: If you preserve a lot of juice or fruit jelly, you may want to consider investing in a steam juicer to speed up the process. A steam juicer is a stacked multi-pot unit. The fruit is put into the top pot, which is stacked over a collection pan. This is placed over a bottom pot of water, and placed on the stove. As the water boils, steam rises, and the fruit releases the juice. The juice drips through the perforated holes into the collector pan. If you are using a steam juicer, follow the manufacturer’s directions to extract the juice concentrate, and add water when you heat the apple juice for canning.
How to Achieve a Clear Juice
A cloudy apple juice just has tiny bits of pectin and apple solids in the juice. Commercial apple juice goes through a process that removes these particles. Here are tips for achieving a clear apple juice like you find in the grocery store:
- Let the juice drip naturally from the cooked apples for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator using a jelly bag.
- Don’t squeeze the jelly bag. Squeezing will force small particles of apple pulp through the strainer, and will make your apple juice cloudy.
- Let the sediment settle. Cover and refrigerate the juice overnight to let the sediment sink to the bottom. When you are ready to can the juice, ladle it out carefully without disturbing the sediment at the bottom. You will get less juice, but it should be nice and clear.
Don’t Have a Water Bath Canner?
You can use a large sauce pot to can the jars as long as it is tall enough to cover the tops of the jars by a few inches, plus two or more inches of space to prevent boiling water from splashing out of the pot. Place a rack in the bottom to hold the jars up away from direct heat, so they won’t break, and can in several batches depending on the size of your pot.
Apple juice also freezes very well. To freeze apple juice, let it cool, and pour into freezer safe containers. Leave about a 2-inch headspace to allow for expansion. Label, date, and place the containers in the freezer. Apple juice will last in the freezer for 4 to 6 months. Thaw the apple juice overnight in the refrigerator.
Ways to Use Apple Juice
We like canning apple juice in pint-sized jars that can be chilled in the refrigerator, opened, and enjoyed fresh. Larger jars come in handy to make mulled apple juice by simmering on the stove with spices. You can even use apple juice as the liquid to home can fruits such as peaches, pears, or apple slices.
Steps to Making and Canning Apple Juice
If you are new to canning or haven’t canned in a while, it may be helpful to review this article on water bath canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
A more detailed and printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this article, but these are the general steps for making and canning unsweetened apple juice:
Step 1: Gather the Canning Gear:
- Water Bath Canner with a canning rack
- 6 pint sized canning jars (or 3 quart sized jars)
- Canning lids and bands
- Jelly bag or cheesecloth
- Candy thermometer, or instant read thermometer
- Canning tools: lid lifter, jar lifter, canning ladle, and funnel
- Plus basic kitchen supplies such as a cutting board, knife, large sauce pot, large bowl, small pot, large spoon, and kitchen towels.
Step 2: Extract the Juice from the Apples
Wash the apples well under clean running water. Remove the stems, blossom ends, and chop into 2-inch chunks. There is no need to peel or core the apples because these will be strained out after cooking.
Place the apples in a large sauce pot, add water, and cook over low heat until the apples are soft and release their juices. Simmer slowly and avoid overcooking because it can destroy the flavor.
Strain the cooked apples through a damp jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth. Let the juice drip for at least 2 hours. Don’t squeeze the jelly bag if you want a clear juice.
Discard the solids, or you can run the solids through a food strainer to remove the peels, cores, and seeds for a small batch of applesauce.
While the juice is straining, wash the pot well with hot soapy water. You will reuse this to heat the juice before canning.
Step 3: Prepare the Canning Equipment
Place the canning rack into the water bath canner, and position on a large burner of your stove. Wash your jars with hot soapy water, rinse well, place them in the canner, add water, and boil the jars for 10 minutes to sterilize.
Heat your canning lids in a small pot over low heat (follow the manufacturer’s directions. Keep the canning jars and lids warm until they are ready to use.
Step 4: Can the Apple Juice
Add the strained apple juice to a large sauce pot. Attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Turn the burner on to medium-high heat and warm the juice to 190˚F (88˚C). Do not boil, but adjust the heat to keep the juice at 190˚F (88˚C) for at least 5 minutes.
Remove the warm jars from the canner, drain, and fill with hot apple juice leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.
Place the jars back into the canner, adjust the water level so it covers the jars by a few inches, and process the apple juice a water bath canner as instructed below. Let the jars cool, test the seals, label and date the jars, and store in a cool, dark location for 12 to 18 months.
Canning Homemade Apple Juice
- 12 pounds apples stemmed and chopped
- 4 cups water
Extract the Juice
- Combine the apples and water in a large saucepot. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the apples are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, and avoid overcooking because it can destroy the flavor.
- Strain the apple mash through a damp jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth. Let the juice drip for at least 2 hours. Don't squeeze the jelly bag if you want a clear juice. Discard the solids.
Prepare the Canning Equipment
- Wash the canning jars, lids, and canning tools in warm, soapy water, and rinse well.
- Place the rack into water bath canner, set the jars in the canner, add water, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize.
- Warm your lids in a small pot over low heat. Keep jars and lids warm until ready to use.
Can the Apple Juice
- Add the strained apple juice to a clean large pot. Attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Heat the juice over medium-high heat until the temperature is 190˚F (88˚C). Do not boil, but adjust the heat to keep the juice at 190˚F (88˚C) for at least 5 minutes.
- Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the canner, drain the water back into the canner, and line the jars up on the towel.
- Use your canning ladle and funnel and add the hot juice to the warm jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace at the top of the jars.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel.
- Use the magnetic lid lifter to remove the lids from the warm water, center the lids on each jar, and screw on the bands until they are fingertip tight.
- Place the jars back into the canner leaving space in between them. Once the jars are in canner, adjust the water level to at least one inch above the jar tops. If you need to add water, use the hot water from the small pot your lids were in. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.
- Cover the canner and bring to boil over high heat. Once the water boils vigorously, continue boiling for 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. (adjust processing time for your altitude if necessary - see notes).
- When processing time is complete, turn off heat and allow the canner to cool down and settle for 5 minutes.
- Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Remove the cover by tilting lid away from you so that steam does not burn your face.
- Use a jar lifter to lift jars carefully from canner and place on the towel. You should hear the satisfactory "ping" of the jar lids sealing. Allow the jars to cool for 12-24 hours.
- After the jars cool, check to be sure jar lids have sealed by pushing on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up. If the lid flexes up and down, it did not seal. Refrigerate the jar and use up within a few weeks.
- Remove the screw on bands and wash the jars. Label, date, and store your jars in a cool, dark place. Use within 12 months.
- Refrigerate your juice once the jar is opened and consume within a week. Yields about 6 pint sized canning jars (or 3 quart sized jars) depending on the juiciness of your apples.
Other Ways to Preserve Apples:
- Spiced Apple Jelly Canning Recipe
- How to Can Apple Slices
- Homemade Applesauce Canning Recipe
- 3 Ways to Dehydrate Apples for Food Storage
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