Make a slightly sweetened black currant juice concentrate to can (or freeze) that you can use to make delicious and healthy Italian Sodas. You can also use the juice in other drinks or to sooth a sore throat. This is good stuff.
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When I made this canned black currant juice concentrate for the first time as a way to use up the ton of black currants my two bushes were suddenly providing, we LOVED it mixed with sparkling water as Italian sodas.
I also made black currant jam and a syrup, but we enjoyed (or mainly I did!) this juice a lot more than those.
I'd never grown currants before planting them in our ranch-cottage garden, and for the first years I don't think I pruned them correctly (if "not at all" means incorrectly...), because after the glut in their second year, they only produced a handful over the next couple of years.
Which made our few remaining jars of juice become like Italian soda gold that we would bring out only for special occasions.
Sort of like our version of 50-year-old scotch or something.
How to Prune Black Currants
The black currant variety I grew was called "Ben Sarek" which I chose because they are a good variety to eat fresh as well as use in jams, jellies, and juices.
They have a tart-sweet flavor (sweeter than some currants, but still tart) with an earthiness to them that differentiates them from, say, a blueberry.
When I (finally) researched pruning black currant shrubs, I learned that the fruit forms on 1-2 year old branches, so anything older can be pruned out.
You prune in winter when the shrub is dormant, thinning out the shrub 20-30% by cutting old, thicker dark stems (the 3 year old branches). Also remove any lateral growing or damaged branches.
When pruning, cut the branches back to about 6 inches leaving a lighter, airier shrub.
Once I pruned my 4-year-old shrubs, they started producing well again - and of course this juice concentrate was the first thing I made to replenish our stash.
Black Currant Juice Concentrate Steps (To Can or Freeze)
Extracting juice from berries is relatively simple, though I didn't do it for years because I was intimidated by the whole "hang-a-jelly-bag-for-hours-and-don't-touch-it-or-it-will-get-cloudy" thing.
There are steam juicers you can buy (regular juicers leave too much pulp, I believe), but since this is the only thing I make with juice (we prefer chunky jams versus jellies made with juice), it doesn't seem worth the investment.
Step 1: Make Black Currant Pulp To Strain
- Measure out washed currants and add to a stockpot with an equal amount of water (exact measurements are found in the recipe card below).
- Bring to a boil (watch carefully - or it will boil over), lower heat and simmer (that's a very gentle boil), covered, 15 to 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Use a potato masher to occasionally crush the fruit to extract more flavor.
- Fold the edges of a "jelly bag" like this large bag or this smaller version (I just use a large old cotton pillow case) over a large pot or bowl, creating a place in the center (or a corner of the pillowcase) for the fruit. Wetting the bag first may allow the juice to flow faster, but I've never bothered.
- Pour the current pulp into the bag. You may have a lot of juice if making a large batch (like I did in the photos) that you can pour off right away. PRO TIP: It's helpful to have another pair of hands for this part - someone to hold the bag and make sure juice doesn't dribble everywhere.
- Hang the bag from a stand (ladder, whatever- here's a smaller stand you can buy) and let it drip juice until it stops. I've read people let the pulp drip anywhere from 3-4 hours, but I don't have the patience for that, and I don't care about cloudiness for this concentrate, so when it slows to an almost non-existent drip in 30 minutes to 1 hour, I twist and squeeze the bag to get as much as I can. The pulp is still hot, though, so be careful.
You may have noticed above that our jelly bag hanger is a small ladder set on the counter. In the close-up above you can see how we tied the pillow case strainer to the top of the ladder
So our set-up consists of an old cotton (important) pillowcase, rope, a small stepladder (that's been washed, though it doesn't look like it), and a couple of 2 x 4's that were needed to give the ladder a bit more height.
For a once-a-year thing, it's pretty functional.
Step 2: Make the Black Currant Juice & Can
1. Add sugar and lemon juice to the currant juice in a stockpot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat (don't boil hard over high heat - it tends to boil over).
If canning this concentrate, follow the steps below.
If freezing, let the concentrate cool in the pot and then transfer to freezer containers in quantities you will use (1/2 cup, 1 cup, etc.).
PRO TIP: You can freeze portions in ice cube trays, transfer the cubes to baggies and use them as ice cubes or individual portions.
2. Pour into one hot jar at a time (pint or quart), leaving 1/4-inch head space.
3. Wipe rim of jar with a damp cloth.
4. Set lid on jar and attach screw band until fingertip tight only.
If you have a magnetic lid wand like the one shown, great, otherwise, use tongs or your fingers on the sides of the lid only.
5. Set jar in canner or large stockpot with a rack on the bottom, and finish the other jars.
Cover and bring to a boil, then start timing to process for 15 minutes. Lower heat to maintain a steady boil with the pot covered while timing.
Remove lid, turn burner off and let jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes.
PRO TIP: I no longer use the old enamel canner pictured - I now use a flat-bottomed stainless steel version with a glass lid which makes it SO much easier to monitor the boil. Plus, I can use it on my glass-top stove!
You can see all the canning supplies I use here.
6. Remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel-lined surface to cool completely. I usually leave them overnight.
7. Remove the screw bands and check the seals by lifting with your fingertips.
If a lid pops off with gentle pressure (firm, but not Incredible Hulk or anything), keep it in the fridge and use it first. I've only had lids pop off a couple times in the many years I've been canning, but I still always check to be safe.
Label the lid with the contents and date before storing in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months.
Black Currant Italian Soda From Concentrate
- Place ice in a glass and fill about halfway with the currant concentrate.
- Top with sparkling water and stir together well.
- This makes a lightly sweet soda. Taste and add more juice or water as desired.
More ways to use black currant juice concentrate:
- Dilute with plain cold water for a regular juice. Like Ribena Juice, but less sweet.
- Mix with hot water and honey for sore throats and coughs.
- Use as a syrup over ice cream or pancakes (you may want to add more sugar and cook it down a bit to thicken for this, though).
- Mix it with milk/ice cream as a milkshake.
- Make a cocktail with vodka or gin. (It's very nice paired with lemon or lime juice)
Black Currant Juice FAQs
Black currants are filled with vitamins and minerals and have one of the highest antioxidant values for fruit, including vitamin C and anthocyanins that can help boost immune systems. They are also rich in an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid which can help reduce inflammation. (Source)
If you can't make the juice right away, you can store the unwashed black currants up to five days in the refrigerator.
Yes, black currants are easy to freeze! Simply remove the stems and rinse the currants under cool water.
Lay them out on a towel to dry completely. Then add them to labeled freezer bags, freezing in a single layer until frozen fully. They will last 6 months to a year frozen.
Yes, you can start with frozen currants instead of fresh.
This is a good option if you'd like to make a larger batch of juice and need to harvest over a period of time - just freeze your currants until you have enough to make the amount of juice you'd like.
Black Currant Juice to Can or Freeze (For Italian Soda & More)
- 1 stock pot
- 1 boiling water canner, optional
- 1 bag for straining currants
- 1 stand for straining bag
- 4 cups black currants, stemmed and washed
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Make Black Currant Juice:
- Combine currants and water in a large pot, bring to a boil (watch so it doesn't boil over), lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, crushing currants with a potato masher occasionally.
- Pour currant pulp into a jelly bag (or old cotton pillowcase) while holding over a bowl or pot, and place bag in a stand (or tie to a ladder...) over a bowl or pot to catch the juice as it drips out. Let drip until most of the juice is extracted, 30 minutes to an hour, squeezing as needed to get as much as possible (it doesn't matter if the juice is cloudy for this application) towards the end (careful of the hot bag). Measure juice and discard pulp.
- If freezing, let juice cool and transfer to freezer containers and/or ice cube trays to free solid.
To Can Juice:
- While the juice is straining, prepare jars for canning and gather your canning equipment. You will need one quart size or 2 pints for each 4 cup recipe. You can see general boiling water canning steps here.
- Combine extracted juice in a stockpot with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil (don't let it boil hard), and then ladle immediately into prepared jars leaving 1/4-inch head space.
- Wipe rims, seal, and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Remove lid, turn burner off, and let jars sit in canner 5 minutes.
- Remove jars to a towel-lined counter and let cool completely. Check seals before labeling and storing.
To Make Italian Sodas:
- To a drinking glass with ice, mix one part concentrate with one part sparkling water.
- Stir very well and taste to add more as desired.
- One quart makes 4-6 sodas, depending on the size of the glasses.
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published in August of 2012.Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.