Cranberries are one of my very favorite things to preserve with. Each fall I pick up 15 to 20 pounds of fresh berries from the farmers market and make various cranberry jams, jellies, butters, chutney, sauces, relishes and juice. They are relatively inexpensive when purchased fresh in bulk and are the perfect seasonal ingredient for fall preserving.
I kick off the holiday season with a batch of cranberry-apple jam. It’s a real crowd pleaser and makes a fantastic homemade gift.
Once I’ve made all my cranberry-based preserves for the season, I use the leftover cranberries to make juice. Cranberry juice is incredibly simple to make, requiring just a few ingredients. The juice can be stored in the refrigerator and used within a couple of weeks, or frozen for later use.
There are a few methods of making cranberry juice, but here is my go-to process. This recipe yields a flavorful juice that can be used in numerous ways.
We use cranberry juice mainly for mixing up cocktails or for various punches served over the holidays. I like to mix a splash or two into orange juice and sometimes add an ounce or two of vodka, which makes a cocktail we lovingly named, “Uncle Tim”—named after my uncle that used to favor the drink.
Yield: 2 quarts
- 1.5 pounds fresh cranberries (8 cups fresh whole cranberries)
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar, or more if a sweeter juice is desired (sugar is optional)
Wash and strain cranberries. Remove any white, soft or damaged berries as well as stems.
Add berries and water to a large stock pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer about five to 10 minutes, until the cranberries soften. You will hear the cranberries pop as they cook and split.
The water will blend with the juice and turn red. Cranberries will appear deflated. Once cooked, remove the pot from the heat and allow to slightly cool.
Strain the cranberries through a fine mesh sieve with a large bowl or measuring cup underneath to collect the juice. You can also use layered cheesecloth or a jelly bag to strain the juice if you prefer.
Pour strained juice into a medium-sized saucepan and reheat to a gentle simmer. Stir in sugar (optional step) until dissolved.
Ladle the juice into clean canning jars. Add washed lids and tighten on the rings. Once cooled, refrigerate, and enjoy juice within two weeks.
Transfer to a freezer-safe container, such as a wide-mouth glass jar. Leave 2 inches of headspace to allow space for the juice to expand while freezing. Allow juice to completely cool before transferring in the freezer.
You can re-strain the juice through a paper coffee filter for a clearer finished juice.
The strained-out solids can be re-cooked and re-strained. This, however, will result in a more diluted juice.
Consider repurposing the strained-out cranberry solids to make something else with, such as cranberry relish or sauce.
Keep juice unsweetened by not adding any sugar, or sweeten it more and double the sugar in the recipe. The choice is completely up to your personal preference.
Do not boil juice or it will turn into jelly.
Dilute juice with water or soda when serving. For a more concentrated cranberry juice, half the water in the recipe.