How to Use a Steam Juicer, Make Your Own Elderberry Juice with Fresh Fruit
Are you wondering if you really need a steam juicer? The answer may surprise you!
Not just for kitchen maximalists, the large preserving tool known as a steam juicer may earn its place in your preserving kitchen even though it is a one-job tool. Because it does its one job so well.
It is the way of fruit trees that the bulk of the fruit ripens all at once. If you have backyard fruit trees, I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to make use of the bounty.
It is likely most of the fruit falls to the ground, where it rots or gets carried off by wildlife or livestock. Perhaps a mix of both. I’m not begrudging the deer and birds their share. In fact, it is kindness to leave a portion for animals. But fruit that falls to the ground to decompose is a bit sad and feels wasteful. This is food that could be claimed and used in the kitchen, before it drops rather than create a sticky mess on the sidewalk or lawn.
Enter the steam juicer, a marvelous contraption that easily converts large amounts of fruit into juice!
Steam juicer, deconstructed
The steam juicer is made of 4 sections:
- Water pan
- Juice kettle
- Food basket or colander
Function of each section and order of placement:
- The bottom section, the water pan, holds water which is heated for steam.
- The Juice kettle comes next. It holds the juice and contains a center cone to direct steam upwards to the food basket or colander. It also has a short curve of metal tubing that directs the juice into the hose on the outside for dispensing.
- The food basket is a giant metal colander with holes on bottom and up the sides. This is where the fruit goes.
- Lid goes on top!
Fruits to juice
- Peaches, nectarines, apricots
- Crabapples and apples
- Veggies, too – you can make your own homemade version of V-8 tomato-vegetable juice blend!
One I have wanted to try, but haven’t is quince. Let me know if you have and what the results were.
How to use a steam juicer
I use and love my Back to Basics Nutri-Steamer steam juicer. Directions below are my modified version of the manufacturer’s instructions, based on my 13 years experience with this tool. Be sure to check your instruction booklet if you have a different model.
- Fill water pan 3/4 full with water (add 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar if you have hard water) and place it with the juice kettle and lid on the stove over medium-high heat. Set the food basket / colander aside. When the water boils, reduce heat to medium, making sure the water continues to boil.
- Meanwhile, wash and prepare the fruit. Small fruit such as berries, cherries, and plums can be juiced whole. Larger fruit like apples do not need to be peeled or cored, but are best cut into pieces to facilitate quicker juicing.
- Make sure the drain tube is pushed on the drain spout as far as possible and place the clamp on the tube, a few inches from the end. Set the juice kettle on the water pan.
- Place colander filled with the fruit on top of the juice kettle and cover with the lid.
- When the steam begins to escape from the upper portion of the steamer, start timing. Make sure the water continues to boil and produce steam.
- Wash a heat-proof container, such as an 8-cup (2 liter) glass batter bowl, and any jars needed in hot soapy water and allow to air dry.
- Set the container at a lower elevation than the steam-juice by using a bar stool, chair or small table to hold the container.
- For clear juice, do not stir the fruit while it is processing. For pulpy juice, it is okay to stir occasionally once the fruit has softened.
- After about 45 minutes to an hour, the tubing will be full and you may begin dispensing juice. If you wait too long, juice will overflow the juice kettle and flow down into the water pan. Wearing a long pair of clean rubber gloves, carefully release the the clamp and set it aside with one hand while your other hand holds the tube in the container. CAUTION: use extreme care; juice is hot enough to burn. Keep children, pets, and distractions away. Allow the juice to flow until the container is nearly full or the juice runs out, whichever comes first. Replace the clamp and allow another 20-30 minutes for more juice to collect in the juice kettle.
- Ladle and then carefully pour the hot juice into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace for canning. Immediately add canning lids and rings.
- Dispense more juice into the container as in step 9 and fill more jars.
- Repeat dispensing a third time to take advantage of as much juice as possible. There will be little left by the third time.
- Process in a hot water bath or steam canner according to the chart below.
- When processing time is up, turn heat off and let jars rest in the canner for 5 minutes to prevent siphoning. Then use jar tongs to lift jars from canner to cool on a folded towel with an inch (2.5 cm) between them.
- After 12-24 hours, remove rings and check the seal on each jar. Lids should appear concave and tight, with no flexing. You should be able to lift each jar with your fingertips, holding it by the edge of the lid.
- Gently wash jars in cool to lukewarm water to remove any sticky residue on the outside of the jars.
- Label with name of product and date and store in a cool, dark pantry.
Never allow the water pan to run dry. Filling the water pan 3/4 full should be plenty to allow for a full juicing session. If consecutive batches are planned, be sure to check and refill the water pan between each batch.
Time-saving tips for elderberries
- Spread clusters of elderberries out on cookie sheets and freeze, uncovered, until solid, about 6 hours or overnight.
- With elderberries still in the freezer, set up your workspace: put the water pan on the stove to heat, as in Step 1 above. Place food basket / colander in your clean sink. Have a bowl or compost container ready to receive the stems. Put on a pair of clean kitchen gloves.
- Retrieve one tray of elderberries from the freezer. Pick up one cluster of elderberries and quickly rub it between your gloved hands over the colander. The berries will fall into the colander and the stem goes into the compost container. Repeat until all clusters are cleaned of berries, working quickly before they thaw.
Things to keep in mind
The steam juicer is a labor saving tool, but it is not fast. Think of it like a Crock Pot. Load the food, in this case fruit, into the steam juicer, and let it do the work. It takes about 45-90 minutes for the juice to extract. Make sure to keep the water in the water pan boiling steadily but not violently the entire time. You can use this time for other tasks – or read a book!
I have found I can easily run two batches while doing other things at home without feeling stressed or hurried. It just happens in the background of a stay-at-home day. Your life is different than mine. You may be able to complete more or less batches than I do.
Ask friends and neighbors if you can utilize their unwanted backyard fruit. Most people will be happy to let you come pick in exchange for a jar of juice!
Canning direction links
Apple juice Also crabapple, pear, peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, pineapple
The USDA no longer recommends canning elderberry juice since recent testing shows most varieties of elderberries are considered borderline to low acid. Elderberries in my area of the Pacific Northwest are acidic enough to water bath can. An optional commonsense approach would be to acidify and process as for tomato juice or tomato-vegetable juice blend or to freeze the juice.
Later, when time allows, you can use your home-preserved juice to make jelly, syrup, gummy candies, flavored kombucha, spiced hot cider, and more!
Leftover fruit pulp
- Add some of the juice back to the pulp and cook it down into fruit butter. Refer to my Crock Pot Apple Butter recipe for general guidelines.
- Make fruit leather / fruit rollups. See my Best Fruit Leather Recipe for directions. Having trouble with your fruit leather? See the Fruit Leather Trouble Shooting Guide.
- Feed to chickens
- Add to your compost pile
Allow the steam juicer to cool completely, then empty the water pan and juice kettle of any remaining liquid. Remove the clamp and wash all pieces in warm, soapy water, allowing water to flow through the hose to rinse it clean. To remove white film in the water pan or discoloration in any of the sections, clean with white vinegar and a soft cloth. To polish the exterior of a stainless steel steam-juicer, dampen a cloth and rub gently with Barkeeper’s Friend to restore shine. Rinse clean and dry with a soft towel. Store in a safe place without the clamp on until needed.