Yesterday was cranberry juice canning day! We wanted to get our two freezers combined into one, and thanks to Black Hills Bulk Foods I had 22 twelve-ounce bags of cranberries in the freezer, waiting to be juiced. Now I’m down to 11 bags with 6 gallons of canned juice sparkling on my kitchen counter. Beautiful!
There is a little bit of a story behind this, actually. Ever since leaving the fire department at the end of February 2022, I have struggled terribly with sleep. Sleep issues are common in that line of work. I hoped it would get better as time went on and it just didn’t. After Brad and I got married, I could work from dawn until dusk, physical work, working in the heat, and by all reasonable estimations I should have been exhausted. Yet I’d lay awake in bed for literally hours. I struggled with restless leg issues as well. I couldn’t take melatonin, since I would have these weird, lucid dreams, so I tried valerian and Benadryl, occasionally with a small glass of wine. I tried magnesium for my legs, with marginal results. Basically, nothing helped.
On a whim back in November, unrelated to my sleep issues, I got some fresh cranberries at Sam’s and made up a batch of juice, and enjoyed adding a quarter to a half cup of it to a glass of water to drink, hot or cold. After a week of doing this, it occurred to me that I had slept well every night, and the only thing I had changed was that I was drinking cranberry juice. Long story short, I did a little research and found out that cranberries are a natural source of melatonin. Over the last 6 weeks, since adding cranberry to my diet, I have had the best sleep I have had since February.
I used a recipe from the website Practical Self Reliance. She shares a method of canning cranberries and sugar in water, and a method of canning extracted juice. I chose the latter method.
This is an unsweetened cranberry juice, although sugar can be added if preferred. It takes roughly 4 12-ounce bags to get a full 7-quart canner of jars.
The basic method is as follows:
1. Simmer approximately 3 pounds cranberries in approximately 4 quarts water. Simmer until the berries have popped, about 10 minutes, and lightly mash them. Strain off the juice, pouring everything through a cheesecloth-lined colander.
2. Add cooked berries back to pot with approximately 2 quarts of water. Again let it simmer for about 5 minutes and mash the berries. Drain off the juice.
3. Add cooked berries back to pot with approximately 1 quart of water. Simmer for about 5 minutes and mash the berries, and drain off juice for the last time. Discard the pulp. It is pretty flavorless at this point, but my chickens loved it, especially after it had sat for a couple days and fermented a little…
4. Pour hot juice into quart jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and seal jars hand tight. Process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner – adjust the time for altitude.
For each of the rounds of juice extraction, I used a little extra water just to make sure I’d end up with a full 7 quarts. If you’ve done much canning, you know the frustration of being a cup short of having a full canner of jars!
I love adding the juice to cold water for a refreshing drink or hot water for a delicious tea in the evening. And I have loved the sleep I have gotten since I started adding cranberry to my diet on a daily basis! Enjoy!