The best way to use a steam juicer is over a fairly low, steady heat source that can be left to run continually. A wood fire or gas stove is ideal, as both are quite economical to run for extended periods. Traditionally, steam juicers were left to cook all day long, with the juicing being a continual process. If you are already using a steam juicer, you will be aware that the juice begins to lose its flavour after the first 3-5litres have been extracted, depending on how flavoursome the ingredients were. While there is nothing stopping you from continuing to extract juice after this, those first few bottles are always the best.
Traditionally the juicer machine was just left on the stove, and the basket of pulpy, used fruit simply lifted out, disposed of (we used to feed ours to the chickens when I was growing up), and fresh fruit loaded in. Topping up the water in the bottom (steam) pan needs to be done continually as well of course, but this way the steam juicer is never off the heat, and the result is a very efficient process. Working like this, you can expect to process up to 40 or 50 pounds of fresh fruit a day.
The great thing about having a steady heat source is that you can basically leave the juice kettle unattended for most of the time. It is just important to make regular checks on the level of extracted juice, as an overflow is a real headache! When making your juice it is common practice to add sugar into the batch of fruit being cooked. My mother always used to simply pour the dry sugar over the fruit piled into the juicer basket, and this way it would be gradually dissolved by the rising steam and evenly mix through the juice. Because too much sugar is not very healthy, a good idea is to try and mix up your fruit to sweeten it naturally.
To begin with try to use your ripest fruit first (it will require less sweetening if any at all, and wont be forgotten and spoil), and if this is not sweet enough mix in something like half a dozen ripe pears, or a few cups of grapes or other very sweet fruit you have access to. Juice made with a steam juicer
is a concentrate, and not intended to be drunk straight – usually it is best mixed about 1 part juice to 3-4 parts water.
Ideally, look for a device with stainless steel juicer parts – most of them are stainless these days, but if you are buying second hand look out for rusty spots. Aluminum steam juicers are fine as well, just make sure there are no puncture holes – Aluminum is quite soft, and the thin outer cooker can be pierced by knives and other bits and pieces that may have been stored in or on it for many years.