Drink to your health by harnessing the flavors and antioxidants in raspberries, blueberries, and other prolific summer fruits.
Like most people, if you give me something sweet to drink, I will probably like it. I liked flavored "vitamin waters" until I read their labels, and with years of soft drink slurping behind me, I have some making up to do. Enter dazzlingly delicious (and awesomely nutritious) drinks made from the juices of raspberries, blueberries, and even rosehips. If you can boil water, you can make – and preserve – wildly wonderful fruit concentrates to enjoy year round.
Any canning book will tell you how to turn potent little berries into jam, but most have nothing to say about canning raspberry, blueberry or blackberry juice. You can find instructions for canning berry syrup or grape juice, but information is slim on making juice from berries. Go figure! Slightly sweetened berry juice over ice with a sprig of mint is exactly what your body wants on a hot day. Try it once, and you'll see.
I'm several batches into berry juice-making now, and it's amazingly easy.
1. Thoroughly rinse berries, and place them in a heavy pot with just enough water to make them bob. Bring to a slow boil, mash with a potato masher or spoon, bring back to a boil, and remove from the heat. Cool slightly.
2. Pour the mashed berries into a jelly bag or a colander lined with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Collect the juice in a bowl, and pour it into clean jars as it accumulates. Be careful, because berry juice stains. When the bag or cloth is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the juice and some of the pulp. Compost what's left.
3. Sweeten to taste with sugar, honey, or other fruit juices (such as pineapple). Under-sweeten, because you can always add more sugar later, but you can't restore lost tartness. At this point you have a concentrate, which can be diluted with 3 to 4 parts water for casual quaffing. Don't dilute it if you want to freeze or can it. Whether frozen or canned, you juice's future might include transformation into home brewed soda, wine, or a warming batch of berry cordials.
4. Freeze your concentrate in ice cube trays or small freezer containers. Or, seal it up in half-pint jars processed in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes. Most berries are naturally acidic, but when canning concentrates from softer fruits like plums, I add a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice per cup, just to be safe.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Photo by Barbara Pleasant