I was in the middle of writing a post about Concord grapes, when I realized that anyone serious abut making quantities of fruit juice probably needs to know about one of my favorite tools: a steam juicer.
For years I juiced fruit in a large sauté pan, barely covering the fruit with water, simmering until it was soft, then straining the juice through a jelly bag. Then one year at the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival, my pal Bill Cook casually mentioned that when he had large quantities of fruit to juice, he used a steam juicer. I’d never heard of such a thing, but since I love kitchen gadgets and labor saving devices, it didn’t take much convincing before I was placing my order on Amazon.
A steam juicer has three parts. On the bottom is a solid pan that holds water. In the middle is a pan that resembles a Bundt pan, with a cut out in the middle. This pan also has an outlet to which a piece of translucent tubing is attached.
The top pan is partially perforated on the sides and bottom. Most models have glass lids, which allow you to watch the progress of your fruit; some less expensive models have a metal lid.
The beauty of a steam juicer is that the steam does all the work. You fill the bottom pan about 3/4 of the way with water (the instructions for your specific model will give you precise measurements), place the empty middle pan on top of that, then place the top pan on top of the middle pan, and fill it with fruit. Put on the lid, turn on the heat, and wait for the magic to happen.
As steam rises up through the center hole of the middle pan and through the perforations of the top pan, it breaks open the skins of the fruit and the juice drips down through the perforations into the middle pan. (Note: the top pan is not perforated directly above the hole of the middle pan. This keeps the juice from dripping down into the water.)
As juice collects in the second pan, you’ll see it fill the tubing. Squeeze the metal clasp that keeps the tubing closed to release the juice into a storage vessel.
It takes about three hours to juice a full pan of fruit. So no, it isn’t super fast, but it saves you the trouble of cooking the fruit in batches, transferring each batch to a jelly bag, and waiting for the juice to strain. With a steam juicer, you can pretty much just check in every 30 minutes to collect the juice.
Once I’ve finished juicing, I take the pulp from the top of my steam juicer and run it through a food mill to remove any seeds. Then, I sweeten the pulp just a little, and make fruit leather. Works great with crabapples, chokecherries, plums, grapes, prickly pears, and probably lots of other fruits I haven’t tried yet.
Do you NEED a steam juicer? At about $150, it’s a splurge. So start saving up. Or drop a hint to someone who’ll be giving you a present in the next few months. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools and I highly recommend it.