With this post, I’m starting a new series called “IMBY Solutions” where I look at a backyard or local replacement for something that otherwise would need to come from far away.
Consider lemon juice. With the exception of little dwarf trees that can (and must) be moved in and out of the house for the winter, ours is not a climate for growing lemon trees. But lemon juice is a really useful ingredient – I enjoy it just as a hint of flavor in water, but there are many recipes that call for it.
Here is today’s IMBY Solution: pink champagne currant juice. Although it’s not exactly the same flavor, and not quite as tart as lemon juice, it makes a pretty fair substitute. I have one small bush in my yard, and it produces a lot of berries. Red currant could be used as well, but if you want a juice that looks anything like lemon juice and doesn’t add natural food coloring, the pink champagne current is a better match. In terms of production – that is, converting berries to juice – one could use an electric juicer, but I don’t have one and I’m interested in lower-tech solutions anyway. So here is my process.
- Collect and wash berries. Get rid of any that look bad. I had 1-2 cups of berries to start with. You may want to dry them a little to prevent dilution of the juice.
- Wrap them in a thin kitchen towel or other clean, thin cloth, preferably cotton.
- While holding over a clean bowl, bunch up the towel so that all the berries are in a pocket and you can twist the loose ends to tighten the towel around the berries. As you continue to twist, the juice will be squeezed through the towel leaving the pulp inside. You may need to “knead” the berries somewhat to make sure they’re all getting properly squished.
- When done squishing, pour whatever portion of the currant juice you think you can use immediately into a jar.
- The remainder of the juice can be put into ice cube trays to freeze for future use. (Unlike factory-processed lemon juice, this juice will start to ferment over time, so unless you want currant wine or currant vinegar, freezing is the easiest way to keep a fresh supply on hand.)