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I am a huge fan of cranberry juice, so much that I pretty much always have at least one bottle of Cranberry Ocean Spray in the house. I also really love fresh fruit juices and blended drinks.
There are two really kinds of “cranberry juice” out there. The first kind is the one you get from the store, often called “cranberry cocktail”. The second is real, fresh cranberry juice. I’m going to walk through how to make your own homemade cranberry juice using fresh cranberries.
- What is Homemade Cranberry Juice?
- What Makes a Good Fresh Cranberry Juice
- How to Make Cranberry Juice Not Cloudy
- Tools Required
- Homemade Cranberry Juice
What is Homemade Cranberry Juice?
Cranberry juice is a fruit drink made from water, cranberries, and sugar. The cranberries can either be pressed, stewed, steeped, macerated, or pureed.
What Is the Difference Between Cranberry Juice and a Cranberry Cocktail?
All cranberry cocktails and most cranberry “juices” you buy from the store are going to be made from concentrated cranberry or cranberry powder.
There are some exceptions to this in health food stores, but in general, if you are in the drinks section and the juice is see-through, it’s made from concentrate, sugar, and water. I’ll be referring to this type of drink as a cranberry “cocktail.”
Real cranberry “juice” is likely going to be cloudier, less potent in puckery flavor, and nowhere near as sweet.
My Approach to a Cranberry Juice Recipe
To make cranberry juice at home, I’m going to assume you do not have access to cranberry powder, concentrate, or a press. This means you can either physically break down the cranberries or very slowly leech flavor out of them.
I’m going to opt for the fastest combination of the two. While I dissolve my sugar into water, I’ll steep the cranberries in the liquid.
Next, I’ll puree the steeped and fresh cranberries in a blender to release as much juice into the mix while eliminating any berry bits. Finally, I’ll strain out any remaining seeds that didn’t break down.
What Makes a Good Fresh Cranberry Juice
Good fresh cranberry juice should taste something a little closer to a cranberry flavored tea. To get an effective baseline of this you can take 1/4th to 1/3rd a glass of cranberry cocktail and dilute it with water. Think less Ocean Spray, and more Pom Wonderful.
The Challenge with Fresh Cranberry Juice
The main challenge with cranberry juice is that like orange juice, it spans the gamut of pulp. If you grew up with cranberry cocktail, you are probably going to be on the no-pulp side of the fence.
The easiest way to make fresh cranberry juice is to just blend and drink. The hardest way is to do multiple strains with sieves or a cheese cloth. I’m going to go light on the sieve but still aim to remove the hard seed bits from my juice.
Flavorful Additions to Fresh Cranberry Juice
If you’re looking for how to make cranberry juice taste better, two additions you can make to your fresh cranberry juice are pomegranate juice and grape juice. Pomegranate and grape have been paired with cranberries forever and will bring some added complexity and sweetness to your drink.
Another addition that goes very well with fresh cranberry juice is lemonade or citrus juices. This will get you a little closer to the pucker you get from concentrated juice cocktails. The final thing I’d recommend mixing in is plum. While not very common, plum gives sweetness, acidity, and more color to the juice.
How to Make Cranberry Juice Not Cloudy
If you want the look of cranberry cocktail from the store do not use a blender. The cloudiness comes from the pulp.
Press, mash, or macerate your cranberries and let them soak in the water. Additionally, you can add a little lemon juice to the mix to strip more color from the skins. Reminder: cranberry juice is clear, and all the color comes from the skins.
The most basic tools required for this recipe are a medium saucepan, measuring cup (though you could use any cup and just keep proportions), measuring spoons, and a blender. While I do recommend a sieve, tea strainer, or cheese cloth, this is optional and really is just a matter of how much pulp and seed you prefer in your final product.
- 2 cups cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Add the water, half the cranberries, and sugar to saucepan
- Heat on high until sugar is dissolved (about 2-3 minutes)
- Drop the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes
- Pour contents into blender with remaining cranberries and blend on high
- Strain into glass
- Add ice