CORVALLIS, Ore. – Apples ready to harvest in the fall make for tasty juice and robust cider, popular treats this time of year. If you plan to squeeze your own apples, however, precautions might be in order.
Windfall apples could be contaminated with bacteria. Raw juice or cider has been linked with E.coli O157:H7. Outbreaks usually happen when fallen fruit comes in contact with domestic or wild animals that frequent an orchard, according to Carolyn Raab, food and nutrition specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service.
An easy way to minimize the risk of illness is to pasteurize raw apple juice before drinking it by heating the juice to a safe 160 degrees. This is a wise precaution for both home-squeezed juice and unpasteurized juice purchased from fruit stands.
"If you don't have a thermometer, heat the juice to simmering (just below the boiling point when bubbles appear)," Raab advised.
"Pasteurization is particularly important if pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with cancer, AIDS and other illnesses that affect the immune system are going to drink the apple juice or cider," Raab said.
For long-term storage, apple juice may be canned in a boiling water canner. Heat the liquid to boiling, put into pint or quart jars and process in the canner for five minutes. (Longer times are needed at altitudes over 1,000 feet.) The juice also can be frozen. Be sure to leave adequate headspace if the juice is frozen in jars.
The OSU Extension publication "Preserving Fruit Juices and Apple Cider" (SP50-455) is available online.
For more information about safe canning and preserving other foods from apples, such as applesauce, dried apples, pie filling or apple butter, download OSU Extension's fact sheet on preserving apple products.