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It’s nearing the end of cranberry season here, and I’ve collected all the cranberries I can to make a last batch of cranberry juice. Cranberry juice should be a staple in every homesteader’s pharmacy stash—and let’s face it, this stuff is just really good.
When made at home, you control what goes into your juice, as well as what doesn’t. The best part about canning it is that you don’t have to put any sweetener in it at all if you don’t want to. Then when you’re ready to open it up, you can add it at that point if you want.
I add mine in before bottling, so that the Farmer doesn’t have to do any guessing if he opens one up later when I’m not around.
How To Make Cranberry Juice
First clean all your cranberries and pick any bad ones out. I toss bad ones in the compost bin.
Now take all the good ones and put them in your juice extractor.
After your juice extractor is properly set up and your berries are in the fruit holder/strainer, double check to make sure you’ve got enough water in your water pan, and turn on your heat source.
I make sure my clamp is closed before I start, and I put the end in my collecting receptacle (I use any glass bowl I’ve got).
Once my water, berries, and clamp are ready to go, I put the lid on and turn on my heat.
Get your water boiling (and thus steaming), and then as long as you keep the lid on, you can turn your heat down and it will stay boiling.
Every so often (about every 15 minutes) I unclasp my hose and let the juice run into my bowl, and then clamp it again.
The juice I collect immediately gets measured and put into a large stainless steel cooking pot along with an equal amount of water, and I record the amount.
Keep collecting your juice this way until you either start getting clear juice (which is essentially just the steam). If you don’t want to keep going, since this can take a couple hours, then just stop whenever you’d like. I prefer to go until I get clear liquid out, and then I dehydrate what’s left of the cranberries.
After you are done collecting juice from your cranberries and have added equal amounts of water, you’re ready to move on to bottling up your juice.
Canning Cranberry Juice By Water Bath
To can your cranberry juice, you will need:
- Quart or pint bottles
- Lids and rings (I use Tattler lids)
- Water bath canner
- Large stock pot
- Canning utensils (this is the set I use)
- Sugar (optional)
Prepare your jars, lids, rings, and water bath, and then move on to the cranberry juice.
Pour your juice (equal amounts of cranberry juice and water) into your large stock pot. If you’d like to add sugar, do that at this time. I like to start with a bit over half as much sugar as I have cranberry juice. For example, in this batch I had:
- 9 Cups juiced cranberries
- 9 Cups water
- 5 Cups sugar
We don’t like ours as sweet as many people do, but I really think this is sweet enough, and a good place to start if you’ve never made your own before.
Turn the heat on under your mixture and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t boil your mixture.
Once your sugar is dissolved, carefully ladle it into your hot prepared jars with the canning funnel, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
Wipe the rims of your bottle clean with a hot, moist, clean cloth. Place your prepared lid (or two piece Tattler lid system, like I use) on your jar, and then your ring.
With your jar lifter, put your jar into the prepared water bath canner. When all jars are in your canner, double check your water level to make sure it’s in accordance with your manufacturer’s instructions. Mine calls for the water level to cover the jars by 2 inches.
Place your lid on the water bath canner.
Turn the heat up under your water bath canner, and bring to a boil. Once your boil is achieved, start timing your water bath for 15 minutes plus the adjustment for altitude. (This is the same for pints and quarts.)
Altitude Increase Processing Time
1001-3000 ft 5 minutes
3001-6000 10 minutes
6001-8000 15 minutes
8001-10000 20 minutes
At just under 6000 feet in altitude, I time mine for 25 minutes.
Once your time is up, turn your heat off and remove the lid. Let your jars set as they are for awhile. After 20 minutes, I pull mine out with the jar lifters and carefully set them on a towel on the counter, making sure there is an inch of space all the way around them.
Since I use the tattler lids, I use 2 oven mitts to tighten the rings once they are sat on the counter.
Let your jars set overnight.
Carefully check your seals in the morning and clean your jars. Any jars that didn’t seal can be processed again, or put in the refrigerator and used within the week.
What To Do With Your Cranberries After Steaming
I know some people just toss out their cranberries at this point, but why would you? They are still good cranberries, just with a lot of their water content steamed out. At this point, you could toss them in sugar and then dehydrate them to taste like Craisens, or you could just put them in your dehydrator like they are—which is what I do.
They aren’t separate cranberries anymore as much as they are mush at this point, so don’t expect them to be pretty.
I use a spatula to put them on a couple sheets and just move them around so that air can get up between them. Turn them on to the fruit setting, and let them go for awhile. Check on them and remove them when they are no longer juicy or squishy.
There are usually a few cranberries that didn’t pop during steaming. Those that didn’t pop won’t dehydrate well. Either plan to toss them, or poke them with a knife to dehydrate them.
In the morning of the next day when I turn them off, I put some into the morning oatmeal or farina. The rest are moved to a container and I’ll put them in oatmeal bites, cookies, granola, etc.
With this batch of cranberries, I was able to can 5 quarts of juice, and have 5 cups of dried cranberries. Nothing was wasted.
A quick note: Only you can be responsible for the food you prepare for your family, just as only I can be responsible for the food I prepare for my family. Always follow all manufacturer’s guidelines. You are encouraged to use pH testers, and also know that substituting any ingredients affects the pH and affects the need for lemon juice and/or processing times. I am not a professional “canner” and take no responsibility for your technique. I follow guidelines outlined in the Ball Blue Book, and I encourage you to as well.