If you're accustomed to getting your juice from a jar or can, fresh-squeezed apple juice is a revelation. It’s sweet with a concentrated, natural apple flavor. However, you can’t store it for long periods of time unless you can it yourself or freeze it. Refrigerated fresh apple juice lasts 1 to 2 weeks before fermenting, or going sour. Also keep in mind that fresh juice can carry foodborne pathogens that pose a potential health risk.
Perils of Unpasteurized Juice
Apple juice that's pasteurized, or treated with extremely high temperatures, is safe to drink because the process kills harmful bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. When you prepare fresh juice, any bacteria present on the inside or outside of the fruit can become part of the finished product.
Most people can fight off infection pretty readily, but young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at risk of becoming seriously ill. The pathogens could be present from the moment the apple juice is squeezed, so the only way to be completely safe is to just consume pasteurized juice. When you purchase fresh juice it comes with a warning label.
To reduce risk of contamination from fresh juice, wash the apples thoroughly under running water. The pathogens often reside on the peel. Also discard any bruised areas of the fruit.
You can preserve fresh apple juice in several ways, depending on how long you want to keep it.
Place fresh-squeezed apple juice in an airtight container and store it in the back of the refrigerator where you find coolest temperatures. The cold slows the time it takes the juice to ferment and sour. Avoid placing it in the door of the fridge because it tends to be warmer due to constant opening and closing. The temperature of your refrigerator should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Store the apple juice in a freezer-safe, airtight container and place it in the freezer. Leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion during freezing. The flavor is best if used within three to six months. Freezing does not kill bacteria, so the juice still poses a potential health risk.
Home pasteurization is fairly simple and the safest way to preserve fresh apple juice.
If you made the juice in a manner other than with a juicer, pour the freshly squeezed apple juice into an airtight container and allow it to settle overnight in the refrigerator. Strain the juice if necessary. Most juice machines create a pulp-free product that doesn't need straining, so you can skip this step.
Place the juice in the top of a double boiler. Bring it up to a temperature of 160 F as measured with a candy thermometer. Keep it at 160 F for at least one minute.
Pour the juice into sterilized jars or bottles and seal. Preheat the bottles before adding the juice to prevent them from breaking from the heat of the juice.
Home-pasteurized juice that's canned while hot lasts several months. If you cool it after it's heated and then pour it into bottles, the shelf life is shortened significantly.