Asked to start a thread about steam juicers, here it is.
A steam juicer looks like this. There are two kinds: aluminum and stainless steel. Obviously, the stainless costs more. Worth every penny.
A couple of years ago, we had harvested more than 100 pounds of grapes from our vine and I began the elaborate process of heating the grapes, mushing them, and then straining the resultant glop through cloth to get the juice, and then putting it in the frig overnight to precipitate out the crystals, straining it again, and canning it. Took forever. Like days. Awful.
When I saw the steam juicer, I was smitten. It just looked like it would eliminate all that work. The price nearly killed me, and I had to really think about how stupid it seemed to buy something that cost that much money to process grape juice. Shortly after buying it, I went to the grocery store, and of course, they had grape juice on sale, so I felt like a total idiot.
But then I found out how much more it will do.
Steam juicers consist of three pans. The bottom one holds water. The middle one is like an angel food cake pan and the juice collects there. The steam from the bottom goes up through the middle tube to the colander-like top pan, which holds the food.
In fact, some people have cobbled together steam juicers using a dutch oven for the bottom, an angel food cake pan in the middle (gotta figure out some way to raise it) and a colander on top. They work, but they're a bit of a pain because there is no way to remove the juice that collects without tearing the whole thing apart. The actual steam juicer has a plastic tube that comes out at the bottom of the juice collecting pan (the angel food cake pan) with a clamp on it.
Here's an wonderful video showing the process for grapes from start to finish. If you aren't familiar with Tammy, her web site is mostly about dehydrating stuff and she's wonderful.
But back to what you can use this thing for, beyond grape juice.
Take apples. I used to make applesauce by (worst case) peeling and cutting up the apples, cooking them to mush, flavoring them and canning them. Took forever. Better situation is to cut up apples, peels, cores and all, cook them down to mush, run them through a food mill: What I have vs. What I'd rather have, but can't afford right now, and maybe never.
Either way, whatever I put in the pot ends up applesauce and that's all.
Enter the steam juicer. With it, I put the cut up apples, skins, cores, everything, in the hopper, and start it steaming. The apple juice collects, and when the whole thing is done, I run what's left, the pulp, through my food mill. If it's a bit thicker than I really want it to be, I add a little apple juice back into it, but it generally doesn't require much. Season it, if desired or needed, and can it. While I'm at it, I can the apple juice. It's a two-fer, folks.
And if you like apple butter, there is nothing easier. Can up the apple juice, and then take the strained thick pulp, season it and cook it down just a little bit - not hours, but minutes, and can it.
I have to admit that I wondered about this at first. I thought that the juice collected would be diluted somehow by the steam. It isn't. The grape juice is so strong that we dilute it when opening a jar. I also thought that removing all the apple juice from the apples would make blah-tasting applesauce. Nope. Can't tell the difference.
So, it will do fruits and do them well. Juice is easy and quick, and can be canned as is, or made in to jelly.
But it also does chicken.
I admit being skeptical about this as well, but I read about people who did all the time, so I gave it a try and was converted almost instantly. All I do is put the chicken into the hopper (you don't even have to cut it up, although it is necessary to kill it, gut it and pluck it ), collect the broth, and let the cooked chicken cool.
I then take the meat off the bones, and can it, using a bit of the collected broth in the jars. There is always more broth than is needed, so I can that up separately. All of it tastes wonderful.
And tomatoes. Oh tomatoes. I would hate like hell to do tomatoes the old way. With the steam juicer, I put the cut up, but not peeled, tomatoes in the juicer, and collect what is affectionately called "tomato water" (it's a watery, reddish tinged fluid - not the tomato juice you're used to seeing in the store).
After running the pulp through the food mill, I have tomato sauce. From there, I can do whatever I like with it. The "tomato water" I can separately, and label it just like that. It's like a tomato broth. I use for everything - soups, stews, water to cook rice in, whatever. Some people like to drink it, but I have enough tomato juice that we don't drink the "water" plain.
The main thing is the time and energy saved, and the fact that I'm saving all that broth that would ordinarily be boiled away.
I make not only tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc., but also barbecue sauce and ketchup. Making ketchup takes a bazillion tomatoes and you have to cook them down endlessly. Not with a steam juicer. There is still a cook down process but I'm starting with tomato sauce, not tomato juice. It probably cuts the time involved by 75%.
The big thing to me was that this thing is completely non electric. You can use it over any kind of heat source. It saves a tremendous amount of time and more importantly, energy.
Here's a super free recipe book (PDF) from one of the manufacturers.
A note about brands: Doesn't really matter. They're all basically alike. The only differences are whether it is stainless or aluminum. People who buy aluminum to save money end up wishing they hadn't.
One other thing: You absolutely must not let this thing boil dry. You cannot see the pan, so that's problematic, but easily solved. Put a couple of marbles (I have some stainless steel ball bearings) in the pan, and they will start rattling when it needs more water. Having to add water is rare, though, but sometimes I go do something else and forget it.
Oh, and I do not work for any of the companies that make these things. Really. I should, but I don't.