Oh, Honey — Blackberry-Rhubarb Juice

Now that I’ve had to give up refined sugar, honey seems like nothing less than a miracle. I’ve been thinking of all those beautiful bees, working so hard to make it. They deserve our big respect.

Here’s one of the first things I’ve decided about my new diet situation: No crappy honey. No squeezie-bear bottles of mass produced stuff from Safeway. At our community natural food store — the enormous and 100% organic Good Earth in Fairfax — they have two kinds of local honey stored in gently warmed stainless steel vats. I bring in my mason jar marked with a tare weight (here’s how to do that), then I have the great pleasure of dispensing the perfectly textured, golden elixir and carrying it home. It’s on the expensive side — six-something a pound — but I’ve decided that if this is the only sweetener I get, it’s an investment worth making.

Eventually, maybe I’ll suss out a local apiary so I can get even closer to the source. Just like I love knowing the ducks down the street — Page, Sissy, and Scuttlebutt — who lay the eggs I love so much, it would be wonderful to make the acquaintance of some neighborhood bees.

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I still have some fruit in the freezer from last summer — about seven pounds of blackberries, fifteen pounds of rhubarb (!), a couple packages of plums and raspberries. I guessed that this simple blackberry-rhubarb juice might be a good idea. That turned out to be mostly true.

I used my Mehu-Liisa steam juicer for this project. I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing: I plunked my frozen fruit into the juicer basket, drizzled honey on top, and let it steam. And steam. And steam. What I learned is that you can steam too much. When I checked the juice at about one hour, it was excellent. The blackberry flavor was full and round, the rhubarb tarted it up a bit, and my free-hand amount of honey seemed just right. I got greedy, though. I wanted more juice, so I let it steam another half hour. In the end, the flavor dulled and darkened some; it’s just a touch bitter. Totally drinkable, but not what it might have been.

Juice-making lesson: Taste as you go. Stop when you like it.

Casting a long winter shadow

Honeyed Blackberry-Rhubarb Juice for the Mehu-Liisa Steam Juicer

Makes 2-3 quarts of juice

3 1/2 pounds blackberries
2 pounds rhubarb
1/2 cup high-quality honey

I wrote out all the instructions for using the steam juicer in this post about grape juice, so please pop over there if you want that information. (If you have or are interested in a Mehu-Liisa juicer, you might enjoy the post just because it includes some funny hand drawings that I found in the package when I bought my juicer used on eBay. Total bonus.) Besides all that, here are a few points unique to this experience:

1. As I mentioned above, it’s a good idea to check this juice after it’s been cooking for a while. When the fruit starts to look noticeably pale and the rhubarb has broken down — after about an hour — taste it, being careful not to give yourself steam burns in the process. If you like the flavor and there’s a satisfying amount of juice in the basin, consider pulling it earlier than you otherwise might.

2. At the bottling step, I set a scalded jelly bag (cheesecloth will do) into the funnel because I was concerned about stray blackberry seeds. I didn’t catch many (the steamer did a fine job of keeping them out of the juice) but it filtered out some sediment and I like the clarity of the result.

3. This juice is rich. If you dilute it — with still water, fizzy water, gin, whatever you like — even two quarts will go a long way.

If you’ve got good tips for using a steam juicer, please share. (Here’s my so-far favorite source for Mehu-Liisa equipment, accessories, and information.) I’m enjoying the learning curve!

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