There is a wonderful heritage farm in Harrisburg, Oregon, near where I live. Hentze’s farm has been in operation for over a hundred years. They still have a lot of old-time processing equipment for shelling nuts, slicing beans, and pitting cherries. They are also one of the last orchards in our area that still has sour cherries. I phoned in an order for 10 pounds pitted and had them put them in the freezer till I could pick them up. Today, I juiced them in my Mehu-Liisa steam juicer from Finland.
Freezing fruit breaks down the cell walls and makes juice more readily available for steam juicing. I brought my water pan to a steady boil (no need for a furious boil) and sanitized my jars in a hot dishwasher and my rings and lids by boiling them for 5 minutes (I left them in the hot water until I needed them).
After thirty minutes (be sure to use a timer to avoid boiling the water pan dry), there was quite a lot of juice in the kettle and the cherries had shrunk down quite a bit. I could have processed for another 15 minutes, but I chose to draw off the juice and take the Mehu-Liisa off the stove. I wanted to use the spent cherries for preserves and fruit spread later on. I’ll post recipes soon.
I drew off the juice into my sanitized jars and capped them with the boiled rings and lids. Next step is to steam process or water bath according to USDA guidelines. My yield from 10 pounds (about 1/2 a batch) was 3.5 quarts of rich, concentrated juice. I will use this juice to make jelly, syrup, and in the fruit spread and preserves I intend to make with the spent cherries.
I hope you get a chance to juice some sour cherries this summer. They have a wonderful, old-time cherry flavor (think cherry cough drops or lifesavers). Let me know if you have any questions or tips and techniques to share.