How to Use and Preserve Fresh Apple Juice

If you're lucky enough to have an abundance of apples, there's a lot you can do with the juice.

freshly pressed apple juice

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With six apple trees in my forest garden, and a very good year for fruit this year, much of my time these last couple of weeks has been taken up with harvesting and preserving the apple harvest. Four trees have been harvested and two, with later apples, are an upcoming task.

We use and preserve our apples in a range of different ways. But a large percentage of the apples we grow, we use to make apple juice (apple cider to those in North America). 

Using Fresh Apple Juice 

We love our fresh apple juice. After we macerate the apples and push them through a hand-cranked press, we typically drink a lot of the juice fairly quickly. We will often simply drink it as is, or blend it with other homemade drinks like a black currant cordial, for example. This fresh and unprocessed (unpasteurized) apple juice, however, won't last long in the refrigerator. So we have to find ways to preserve that juice for later use. 

Hot Water Bath Canning Apple Juice

The first method that we use to keep fresh apple juice for longer is hot water bath canning. I pour the apple juice into one-pint preserving jars, leaving a quarter inch of headspace, then process them in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Simple. The only problem is that I don't have enough canning jars to store all of our apple juice in this way. 

I've canned 16 pints of apple juice from two pressings in our apple press. I know that these jars, all properly sealed, should now last in our pantry for at least a year, perhaps as much as 18 months.

Canning With Apple Juice

Another thing that I do is use some of the apple juice to can other fruits in the water bath canner. I have a few jars of blackberries and some of apple slices that I have canned in apple juice, rather than in a sugar syrup.

This is a healthier option that allows me to create fruits that are not too sweet and which retain their natural fruity flavor for the winter months. (If you do so, leave a half inch of headspace and process for 20 minutes.)

Freezing Apple Juice

Even though I do can plenty of apple juice, as well as other things in the juice, I still have a lot more that I want to preserve for later use. So, in addition to the canning, I also freeze apple juice in recycled large four-pint milk containers.

I leave some room at the top of these containers since liquid expands when frozen. We will certainly use ours up before it comes to this point, but it should keep well in the freezer for up to a year or so. When we want the next batch, I defrost it in the fridge and use it up within a few days.

Making Apple Cider (Alcoholic)

The fresh juice dealt with, we also have apple varieties suited to making an alcoholic cider. Once we have mashed them and pressed the juice, my husband takes over and oversees the fermentation process to turn that fresh juice into cider.

After it undergoes the primary fermentation in a bucket with an airlock, the cider is transferred to glass demijohns, then later bottled.

I am not a huge fan of alcoholic cider, I have to confess. But my husband will very much enjoy some next summer. 

Making Apple Cider Vinegar

If you take alcoholic apple cider and put it through a second phase of fermentation, you get apple cider vinegar (ACV). This is very useful in a wide range of ways around our home, and so is another good way to use up some of our harvest.

While you can also make apple scrap vinegar (and we do), a real ACV is also good to have around. And by taking a scientific approach, you can be more certain of the acidity of the finished product. I use this vinegar in canning projects, as well as to clean my home and even my hair. There are so many ways that having your own ACV can really come in handy.

With so many apples, we have a lot of juice, as well as a lot of other apple products. But with the strategies above, we make sure that as little as possible goes to waste, and we make the most of the bounty that we are able to grow in our garden.