I am learning how to juice apples and make clear jellies without any added pectin using a Finnish steam juicer. We have acres of apples and we need to process as many pounds as we can. I have been doing gallons and gallons of apple butter and I plan to get started on the dried apples but I also want some proper jelly. When I was worried about the work involved in making jellies (like my inbred hated of jelly bags) I was told that I needed an old school steam juicer, the Finnish kitchen work horse the mehu-maija. In case you are new here, my husband is Finnish. Being a good Finnish housewife, people were surprised that I did not have a steam juicer or a mehu-maija (MEH-who-my-uh). I am not really Finnish, just married to a Finn, but we did fix the mehu-maija thing.
We ordered the Mehu-liisa brand and I love it already. The bottom section of the device holds water which is brought to a boil and then the heat is turned down but kept at a steady boil. The steam moves up through a funnel shaped section in the middle portion, which resembles an inverted angel food cake pan with handles. The top section is a steaming basket which holds a great deal of roughly sliced large fruits or whole berries which is then covered with a lid which sits loosely on top. The steam moving up softens and cooks the fruit and juices fall through the holes in the bottom of the steamer into the middle section which collects the juice. There is quite a wait. The ten pounds of homegrown apples we put in the top section took over two hours to completely cook down. The lid barely would go on when I first set it to boil and within half an hour, when I returned to check the water level, they were already below the edge of pan. By the time they were done, they had decreased in volume by two-thirds and no longer had any color and absolutely no flavor.
When I strained off the juice, I had two quarts. Juice coming from a steam juice is thicker than average and the high heat kills bacteria and yeasts which makes it perfect for jellies and canned juice. The heat also activates the natural pectin in fruit making jellies a faster process. Pectin is added to fruits to make them easier to jell. Given enough time over heat, they will all thicken to the point that they jell and the addition of sugars binds up any residual water to prevent bacteria overgrowth. Now, the amount of sugar needed depends on the natural pectin present and works in an even ratio, that is the more pectin, the more sugar.
The Finns have a great trick for learning the amount of pectin in your juice. Now this juice being heat processed is both thicker (more like store bough canned nectar) and higher in pectin so if you are using fresh, raw juice then the results will be different. When the juice is cool (you can juice one day and put it in the fridge overnight to cool) you can take even amounts of juice and vodka (one tablespoon of each) and mix them. High pectin foods will create a clump when the mixture is poured out. The sugar ratios for the amount of pectin present are these: a single lump needs a single cup of sugar for each cup of juice, if you have two or three then you need between 2/3 and 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of juice, and if there are many fine grains of pectin then use 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of juice. If there are no clumps, then you need to add additional pectin. If you are a fan of Pomona Pectin, and I am, you need to know that it is not appropriate for canning because it does not hold its consistency at high temperatures such as those needed for canning.
You can also drain the juice into clean and sterile canning jars and process the straight juice. You will need to process your juice for different times depending on your elevation (I am right at 1,000 ft) and you can find out how long HERE. You can use the juice for drinking or save it to make jelly later when you might have more time (like the long, dark winters here). This juice is unsweetened and very thick so it makes blend for homemade punches, for diluting kombucha or water kefir, for making wine and hard cider and for drinking with seltzer water.
This first batch was plain, tomorrow I am making a spiced cider blend using apples, cinnamon, cloves, and all-spice that I am envisioning drinking hot with butter this winter. Can you see it? Hot buttered cider from our own trees as we open Christmas gifts? All this work will be so worth it.
Big news, I am inches away from a half million total page views. Whoot!
I am announcing a super cool giveaway tomorrow, so stop back!