When making most canned fruit products like jam, preserves, and fruit butter, either the whole fruit or at least all of the pulp is used. But, when making jelly, the juice is extracted from the fruit and only the extracted juice is mixed with sweetener and a thickening agent like pectin to make jelly.
There are two main methods of extracting juice from fruit:
- Adding water and boiling- The most common method that will keep the natural pectin in the fruit peels intact.
- Using a juicer- A faster method but, since the peel may be removed, there is less natural pectin in the final product.
Both methods have the same basic steps:
- Step #1: Wash and sort the fruit.
- Step #2: Remove the stems and trim the bad spots.
- Step #3: Extract the juice.
How to Extract Juice from Fruit
Step #1: Wash and Sort
When preparing fruit for canning, the best place to start is by washing each of your chosen fruit pieces well and discarding fruit that has gone bad. For small fruits such as berries and figs, swirling them in a pan of tap water and then pouring them into a colander is the best way to clean them without bruising or damaging. Larger fruits such as pears, peaches, and apples will need to be handled and washed individually to make sure they are clean and there are no twigs or leaves mixed in.
Step #2: Remove Stems and Bad Spots
Once the fruit has been washed and sorted, the next step is removing any stems and bad or rotten spots. Even though there may be a bad spot or two, you may not have to discard the whole piece of fruit, just cut away the bad part and the rest should be fine.
Step #3: Extracting the Juice
Method #: Extracting by Adding Water and Boiling
The most widely used method of extracting juice to make jelly is by adding water to the fruit and boiling. Here, we will discuss the three main steps to that method:
- After washing, place whole berries, seeds and all, or larger fruits including peaches, apples, and pears, cut into chunks in a large pot, add just enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. It is not necessary to peel fruit nor remove seeds and pits. A large portion of the fruit’s natural pectin is concentrated in the peel or skin and you don’t want to discard that!
- Reduce heat and simmer, for berries 10 to 15 minutes and for larger fruit 20 to 30 minutes, mashing the fruit with a potato masher as it cooks to extract the juice. Avoid overcooking as excessive boiling will destroy the pectin and will adversely affect the flavor and color of the juice. Stir often to avoid burning.
- When fruit is tender, remove from heat and strain through a colander, allowing time for the juice to drain. Then pour fruit into either a cheesecloth or a jelly bag. Allow the juice to drip, supporting the cheesecloth or bag with a stand or colander. Pressing or squeezing the bag or cloth at this point will cause cloudy jelly.
- Strain all the juice a second time through a wire strainer.
- Follow a recipe for making jelly or preserve the juice for use at a later time by canning or freezing. (See the Related Questions section for directions to canning or freezing juice.)
- Compost or discard the fruit pulp.
Method #2: Extracting by Using a Juicer
After washing, sorting, removing stems, and cutting away any bad spots, all you have to do is feed the fruit into the juicer. The juicer does all the work for you; you don’t even have to peel or remove the seeds. Smaller fruit can be left whole; larger fruit should be cut into chunks.
Once your fruit has been processed by the juicer, just skim the foam from the top, strain the juice through a wire strainer, and you are ready to make jelly.
Any decent juicer will do the trick, here is a good one that I recommend. (Click to see Amazon listing)
One downside to using a juicer to extract the juice is that the natural pectin content will be less than if you were extracting the juice by cooking. Most of the pectin is found in the peel of the fruit, and since the juicer removes the peel, it is also removing part of the pectin. This will not be a problem, however, if you are going to use commercial pectin in making your jelly.
I wrote an article on the supplies needed to make jelly, be sure to check it out.
What Type of Fruits Can Be Used to Make Jelly?
3 different types of fruits can be made into jelly.
- Those with small seeds like berries or figs
- Berries with larger or multiple pits like cherries and plums
- Large fruits with peels and seeds or pits like apples or peaches.
If you plan to make jelly without adding commercial pectin or an alternative thickening agent, always use fruit that is high in natural pectin and acid and in a ratio of 3/4 fully ripe fruit and 1/4 slightly underripe fruit for the maximum amount of pectin content.
How Much Juice Should My Fruit Produce?
A good rule of thumb for how much juice the fruit you are processing should produce is that one gallon of prepared fruit or approximately 16 cups should produce enough juice to make 3 batches of jelly. Recipes differ greatly, but you can expect to get anywhere from 12 to 15 cups of juice.
How Long Can I Store the Juice?
Canned juice will be good to use for several years as long as the jars are sealed and stored properly. It is a good idea to occasionally check your stored jars of juice as well as your canned fruit to make sure they are still sealed and have not become discolored. All you have to do is run a finger over the lids to make sure they have not become unsealed.
Frozen juice will last for many years as long as it has not been thawed and refrozen.
Directions for canning juice
- Prepare an area for the jars of juice to sit while cooling. (I use a thick folded towel on the dining table.)
- Wash and place 4 quart-size canning jars in a pan of water; bring to a boil and allow to boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Allow to boil continuously until used.
- Bring water to a boil in a small pot, reduce heat, and add lids. Allow lids to remain in the simmering water until used.
- Pour the juice into a pot large enough to accommodate a full rolling boil.
- Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat.
- Pour boiling juice into jars that are sitting in boiling water.
- Affix lids and tighten rings securely, but do not overtighten.
- Wipe jars, place in the prepared area, and allow to remain until completely cooled.
- Wash the jars, label, and store in a cool, dry area.
Directions for freezing juice
- After extracting the juice and straining through a wire strainer, allow the juice to cool completely.
- Wash freezer-safe containers in hot soapy water and dry. Use containers that will hold the amount of juice needed for 1 batch of jelly.
- Measure and pour the amount of juice needed for 1 batch of jelly in each container. Leave at least 1/4 inch of headspace in each container to allow for expansion as the juice freezes.
- Firmly affix the lids to the containers and wipe the outside of the container with a clean, wet cloth.
- Label containers and place in the freezer.
Things to keep in mind when freezing juice:
- When freezing fruit juice or any foods, be sure they are completely cooled before putting in the freezer. If still a little warm, place containers in the refrigerator until cooled before moving to the freezer.
- When you are ready to use the frozen juice to make jelly, allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator before using it.
Which method you use to extract juice from the fruit for making jelly will be a personal preference for you since both methods work very well. I grew up thinking that putting the fruit into a pot with water and boiling to extract the juice was the only good method since that is the method my mother used. But I have recently become aware that a lot of people extract juice from the fruit by using a juicer.
The juicers that are made today are very efficient and do a great job of separating the juice from the other parts of the fruit with minimal mess and in a much shorter time than is required when extracting juice by cooking.
Which Fruits Are High In Natural Pectin and Acid?
- Fruits High in Pectin: Sour Apples, Blackberries, Sour Cherries, Crabapples, Cranberries, certain Grapes, Kumquats, Lemons, Loquats, Mayhaws, Melons, certain Oranges, Passion Fruit (skin), certain Plums, Pomegranates, Quinces.
- Fruits Low in Pectin: Blueberries, Figs, Grapefruit, Guavas, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Peaches, Pineapple, Rhubarb, Strawberries.
- Fruits High in Acid: Crabapples, Currants, certain Grapes, Loquats, Raspberries.
- Fruits Low in Acid: Sweet Apples, Blueberries, Sweet Cherries, Figs, Melons, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Peaches, Pears.
Can I make jelly with commercial canned or frozen fruit juice? You can make jelly by using commercial canned or frozen fruit juice as long as there is nothing added to the juice. Always be sure that the only ingredient in the product you use is pure fruit juice.