Sunday, June 21, 2009

Steam Juice Extraction........

Ok, so last year, after reading some stuff about how to extract juices from fruit, I managed to get a "steam juice extractor" cheap on ebay (less than £20 including the postage).

It's basically a large "ban marie" sort of thing, with a lower pan that holds water, a central section that collects the juice but allows the steam to pass through the middle area (which has a high inverted funnel section with holes to let the steam pass through) and a top section (with lid) that holds the fruit.

The middle section also has a tube that you connect a rubber pipe too (and put a spring clamp/clip on to stop the juice running out until you're ready).

You put the water in the bottom, assemble it, put the fruit in the top and then put it on the hob (gas in my case).

It seems to work quite well, inasfaras it takes about an hour or so for the water to heat up and the steam percolate through to the fruit, heating it up and allowing the juice to drop down to the middle section of it, ready to drain it off into suitable containers.

Obviously, it depends on the fruit, as to how much juice you collect (actually it's designed to handle fruit and vegetables but I don't make vegetable wines etc). For instance, yesterday we went to the local PYO and picked about 2.75kg of black currants, which when processed, filled a "normal" sized kilner jar and 3 x 1lb honey jars. After checking on google, that would be almost exactly 6lb in weight of fruit, or enough to make 2 gallons of black currant wine.

Also, over the last year, after we've done our weekly shopping, any soft fruit left over has been chopped and cleaned, and then frozen. This morning I've chucked it through the steam juicer to see how much juice I get, but also to make some room in the freezer as it's time for the first harvests of the summers earlier fruit i.e. blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry, etc etc.

I did manage to get quite a lot of juice out of it, about 4 litres which I didn't think was too bad at all.

The reason why I'm posting this, isn't because I'm trying to sound like a "clever clogs", but more to do with explaining that it's a handy facility to have but it's certainly not "the B all and End all" when it comes to juice.

Why's that ?

Well, to start with, it's using steam to get the juice out of the fruit, that implies heat. So if the fruit is either heat sensitive or has the ability to impart a "cooked" flavour, then that's what you're going to get.

Yes, it's fair to say that some fruit benefits from the use of heat, for example, elderberry (sorry I can't remember why at the moment). So when they're in season, it will be rather helpful to only have to remove the berries from the main stalk and I won't have to go through them picking off the tiny bits of stalk right on the berry - it's a bloody laborious job at the best of times.......

Though I've also noticed that in some cases, cold or cool extraction might be better....

The black currants I processed yesterday came out quite well, but I was still left thinking that there seemed to be less colour pigment than I recall. Well that's to say that if you buy a pot of blackcurrant jam or jelly, it seems a lot darker than the juice, which is quite dark. Of course, it might just me being daft and remembering wrongly.

Hence I was thinking that it might be my mind playing tricks on me.

There's also the matter of how to actually add the juice to a recipe so I don't loose too much of the flavour, which if you make melomels (fruit based meads), the fermentation process is apt to do. So in the case of these batches of fruit, I think I'll be making the mead as a "traditional" mead to start with, and then when the gravity gets down to something like 1010, I'll add the extracted juice then.....

Hell, it's still going to be experimental but what the hell, it should only be the same as adding fruit at the "secondary fermentation" stage....

I'll have to wait and see eh!


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