Food

Katie Johnson: Steam juicing old-fashioned but useful


A few years back I was just getting ready to harvest my grapes for juice when I had the great fortune of running into a young local women who told me about the process of steam juicing.
I had never heard of a steam juicer and was, quite frankly, a bit skeptical. I had always used the old-fashioned method for juicing my grapes, apples, cherries, etc.
Put it in a pot, add some water, let it simmer down and then go through the arduous process of sieving it off. After a bit of cajoling she managed to persuade me to borrow her steam juicer and give it a try. It was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. The next season I had purchased my own, not just for juicing grapes, but for juicing many different fruits, making pulp and also for steaming vegetables, meats, etc.
I often compare a steam juicer to a still. First, you fill the bottom section with water and then you simply load your washed produce into the top basket — seeds, skin and all. You put the lid on, put it over a hot flame and then sit back and enjoy a nice cup of tea and let it do all the work.
As the water boils, the juice is drawn out and flows down into a trough that can be emptied by opening the clamp on a small hose.
While I have filled hot Kerr jars directly in the past, I have found that it is, instead, best to collect all the juice into one large pot for canning later. The reason is twofold: there is a bit of condensed water that gets added as time goes on and you end up with an inconsistent color (density) of liquid if you bottle it directly, and I also take a day to do my juicing and then do the canning the next day to make it a sweet, easy process.
When you open the top and the grapes have shrunk down to nothing — just skin, seeds and stems — you know it is done and you can simply take the waste and dump it into your compost pile.
This year I took 57 pounds of grapes which produced 20 quarts of juice. Of course, different fruit will give up different amounts of juice. This juice is organic, unsweetened and delicious! You could drink it as is or you can use it to make jelly, syrup or other delicious deserts; grape/pear pie is one of my favorites.
You can also peel, cut and core fruit and then use the pulp that is left after the juice has been drawn off. This is a much easier method of making apple butter. I made apple butter yearly for over 20 years and got so sick of the sieving process that I just stopped doing it — not this year!
You can steam meat or vegetables for freezing or eating and you end up with super tender meat/vegetables and a delicious broth that can be canned or used for soups, stews, etc.
So the next time you have way too many apples, plums, pears, cherries, grapes, rhubarb, or you have found a great price on whole chickens and you would like to steam the meat to freeze for use in enchiladas, tacos or nachos, or you have an abundance of vegetable produce from the garden that you would like to steam and freeze, consider this old fashioned and effective tool to #growyourownfood #eatwhatyougrow #usewhatyouhave.
Kate Johnson is a long-time resident of Carson City. She practices pharmacy locally and is an avid gardener, cook and lover of dogs.

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