Canned Black Current Juice Concentrate {For Italian Sodas}

Black-Current-Juice-Italian-Soda

I made this canned black current juice concentrate for the first time three years ago as a way to use up the ton of black currants my two bushes were suddenly providing. We LOVED it mixed with sparkling water as Italian sodas – far more than the jam and syrup I also made.

I’d never grown currants before, and I don’t think I pruned them correctly (if not at all means incorrectly…), because for the last two years the bushes haven’t even produced a handful. Our few remaining jars became like Italian soda gold that we would bring out only for special occasions.

Sorta like our version of 50-year-old scotch or something.

ripe-black-currants

You can imagine, then, how I’ve been waiting for this year’s harvest to ripen after I saw that the bushes were finally producing again. This is the variety “Ben Sarek” and they are good to eat fresh as well as in jams, jellies, and juices.

However, all sixteen cups we harvested a few days ago went into the pot for a long-awaited batch of juice concentrate. Well…I probably ate a couple.

Extracting juice from berries is relatively simple, though I didn’t do it for years because I was intimidated by the whole “hang-a-jelly-bag-for-hours-and-don’t-touch-it-or-it-will-get-cloudy” thing.

There are steam juicers you can buy (regular juicers leave too much pulp, I believe), but since this is the only thing I make with juice (we prefer chunky jams), it doesn’t seem worth the investment. So after boiling and mashing the currants with some water, we do this:

Sophisticated, no?

By the way, my sister-in-law is aghast at what I share with you all – but between you and me, I get a thrill out of figuring ways to use what we have. Plus sharing and being real about our imperfect ways is part of the deal around here. {smile}

Our set-up consists of an old cotton (important) pillowcase, rope, a small stepladder (that’s been washed, though it doesn’t look like it), and a couple of 2 x 4’s that were needed to give the ladder a bit more height. For a once-a-year thing, it’s pretty functional.

To make the pulp for the strainer:

  • Measure out washed currants and add to a stockpot with an equal amount of water (exact measurements are found at the end of the post).
  • Bring to a boil (watch carefully – or it will boil over), lower heat and simmer (that’s a very gentle boil), covered, 15 to 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Use a potato masher to occasionally crush the fruit to extract more flavor.
  • Fold the edges of a “jelly bag” (or large cotton pillow case) over a large pot or bowl, creating a place in the center (or a corner of the pillowcase) for the fruit. Wetting the bag first may allow the juice to flow faster, but I confess I’ve never bothered. 
  • Pour the current pulp into the bag. You may have a lot of juice if making a large batch (like I did in the photos) that you can pour off right away. Tip: It’s helpful to have another pair of hands for this part – someone to hold the bag and make sure juice doesn’t dribble everywhere. 
  • Hang the bag from a stand (ladder, whatever) and let it drip juice until it stops. I’ve read people let the pulp drip anywhere from 3-4 hours, but I don’t have the patience for that, and I don’t care about cloudiness for this concentrate, so when it slows to an almost non-existent drip in 30 minutes to 1 hour, I twist and squeeze the bag to get as much as I can. The pulp is still hot, though, so be careful.

To can this juice concentrate to use for Italian sodas all year long:

1. Add sugar and lemon juice to the currant juice in a stockpot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat (don’t boil hard over high heat – it tends to boil over).
2. Pour into one hot jar at a time (pint or quart), leaving 1/4-inch head space.
3. Wipe rim of jar with a damp cloth.
4. Set lid on jar (if you have a magnetic lid wand, great, otherwise, use tongs) and attach screw band until fingertip tight.

5. Set jar in canner or large stockpot with a rack on the bottom, and finish the other jars. Cover and bring to a boil, then start timing to process for 15 minutes. Lower heat to maintain a steady boil with the pot covered.
6. When the timer goes off, remove the jars and place on a towel on the counter to cool completely. I usually leave them overnight.
7. The next day, remove the screw bands and check the seals by lifting with your fingertips. If a lid pops off with gentle pressure (firm, but not Incredible Hulk or anything), keep it in the fridge and use it first. I’ve only had a lid pop off one time in fifteen years of canning, but I still always check to be safe. Label the lid with the contents and date before storing in a cool, dark place.

 

To make into an Italian soda:

  • Place ice in a glass and fill about halfway with the currant concentrate.
  • Top with sparkling water and stir together well.
  • This makes a lightly sweet soda. Taste and add more juice or water as desired.
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Canned Black Currant Juice Concentrate {for Italian Sodas}
-makes 1 quart or 2 pints:

  • 4 c. black currants, washed
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  1. To Make and Can Concentrate: Combine currants and water in a large pot, bring to a boil (watch so it doesn’t boil over), lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, crushing currants with a potato masher occasionally.
  2. Pour currant pulp into a jelly bag (or old cotton pillowcase) while holding over a bowl or pot, and place bag in a stand (or tie to a ladder…) over a bowl or pot to catch the juice as it drips out. Let drip until most of the juice is extracted, squeezing as needed to get as much as possible (it doesn’t matter if the juice is cloudy for this application). Discard pulp.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare jars for canning – one quart size or 2 pints for each 4 cup recipe – and ready canning equipment. See boiling water canning steps here.
  4. Combine extracted juice in a stockpot with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil (don’t let it boil hard), and then ladle immediately into prepared jars leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe rims, seal, and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove jars to a towel-lined counter and let cool completely. Check seals before labeling and storing.
  6. To Make Italian Sodas: To a drinking glass with ice, mix one part concentrate with one part sparkling water. Stir very well and taste to add more as desired. One quart makes 4-6 sodas, depending on the size of the glasses.

 

Comments

  1. says

    My mom has the steamer/juicer thing. It is actually pretty cool. She cans grape juice, rhubarb juice, and lingonberry juice. If you have access to grapes, I think it would be worth the expense–about $150.

  2.  says

    This is similar to how we make concord grape juice and wild plum juice. I didn’t know that mixing it with sparkling water was an Italian Soda. My kids love it that way. I love our steam juicer, but I only use it a few times a year.

  3.  Beth says

    Have you ever had your jars of Black Currant Juice concentrate gel up in storage? I went to get some out to use for Christmas, and they were all gelled up – would make great jam, but there’s no sugar in them so it’s very tart! I tried heating, and it just makes little jam balls in water – I can’t figure out how to fix this, so I’m asking around everywhere! Any ideas? Thanks!

    •  Jami says

      Wow, that’s a first for me, too, Beth. I have no idea why that would happen. I know that currents have a lot of natural pectin, but the concentrate I make (with a cup of sugar to 8 c. liquid) has been fine all the years I’ve made it. Wish I could help, but I’m stumped. :(

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