As the days speed into winter and fall’s mildness is becoming a memory here in the Upper Midwest, many of us are frantically trying to get everything “put by” for winter. I’ve become quite close to my steam juicer.
We here at Ash Lane Farm have a lovely vine of concord grapes and two heritage apple trees that I try to get into juice every year.
I am allergic to bees so I have to depend on the kindness of my husband, Norm, to take time from his busy life to pick the grapes and the apples. But once they come inside, they are mine to do as I wish.
We like apple butter, apple sauce and grape jelly, and unsweetened gape and apple juices. Plus, I make a wonderful apple brandy to give as gifts each year as well as have some for us. We also got elderberries from my sister to make into syrups for colds and coughs.
For me, the easiest way to make all these is to use my steam juicer. This was a gift from a neighbor / friend. She and her husband had a press; she felt the steamer was too slow for her. We don’t have the massive amounts of fruit that they have, so the steamer is perfect for me. I find that as I get older, I move slower and get less done. I have not found a good fairy to do the prep work for me, so I have to do it all by myself (sigh). Mine, although a little long in the tooth, is very similar to this one at Lehman’s.
Sitting at the table, I take the stems off the grapes, wash them and pop them into the steamer (making sure I have a lot of water in the base … I forgot, once, and had burned apple juice … not a good thing!) to steam. This year I got a gallon of juice from our grapes. Some went to jelly, some went to juice and a little bit went to a new recipe …. grape liqueur – grape juice, sugar and vodka. We’ll see as it matures – it was pretty good at first taste.
The elderberries have the stems removed, as well, then washed and popped into the steamer until they juice out.
The apples are harder – I have to de-stem them, then cut in half / quarters. I don’t peel them, though. This year I got extra apples from a friend and those are pretty buggy, so I have to cut out the bad spots. Our home-grouwn apples are very clean, so they are easier to process. After washing, they get popped into the steamer (not with the grapes, but that might be a nice trial recipe) and steamed.
I have gallon jars that I use to collect the juice. The steamer has a hose that drains the juice, so the jar sits below the steamer on a stool to collect the juices. This year (so far … I have more apples in a cool spot!) I have gotten over 3 gallons of apple juice.
I use most of my apple juice for cooking. Apple juice on chicken, baked in the oven is heavenly! It makes most foods very moist and is an excellent base for sauces.
Now, once the juice is out of the apple pulp, I can make my applesauce and apple butter. I use a standing food mill to mash the pulp and get the good stuff out. Because all the juice is gone, it doesn’t take long to cook down to the sauce or butter. I then can it and store it in my pantry, alongside my beautiful pint jars of juice.
I don’t mash the pulp from the grapes or elderberries, because I think fighting with the seeds of these small fruits would be too difficult.
This procedure is the best for me, since I can’t convince that good fairy to come help! In fact, I can’t find a good fairy anywhere to help with anything. Anyone got a spare one they are willing to share?
My grapes have to be done quickly after picking. We usually wait until the first frost so that they are sweeter. My apples can wait after picking because they will store a little bit longer. I am nearly done for the season, though and will soon put the steamer away for another year and enjoy the benefits of autum’s steaming and canning the whole winter long.