How To Can Tomato Juice

Last night, I stayed up ’til almost 1 a.m. canning tomato juice. ‘Cause I’m crazy like that.

Actually, we have a quarter of a cow coming tomorrow, and I needed to make room in my freezer for all that beef. Plus, I’d procrastinated on this summer bounty long enough. It was time to turn those 55 lbs. of frozen tomatoes into tomato juice!

jars of canned tomato juice
jars of canned tomato juice

I use a lot of tomato juice for soup, so I figured it would be the best use of my ‘maters. And it isn’t too hard to make. Just takes time.

If you’ve never tried canning tomato juice, and you find yourself buying it on a fairly regular basis, you really should consider putting some up the next time you’re overloaded with ripe (or frozen) tomatoes! Here’s how easy it is.

Okay, so starting with the frozen tomatoes… First, I filled the sink with hot water, and dumped in one gallon bag of tomatoes at a time. The warmth causes the skin to slip right off of the tomatoes, making peeling a dream.

Once the peels and stems were removed, I tossed the semi-thawed tomatoes into the biggest pot I have:

peeled tomatoes in large pot
peeled tomatoes in large pot

Yes, that’s a pressure canner you see there, but we won’t be pressure canning these tomatoes, I just use this pot to simmer large batches of food in because it’s the biggest one I have.

If you are starting with fresh tomatoes, simply core them, and cut into quarters. You don’t need to worry about peeling them, the strainer will remove the peels later for you.

You’ll notice I did not core and slice my tomatoes. Yes, the Ball Blue Book says to do this before cooking, but I didn’t have time to be fooling around with the details. I figured my strainer would get that stuff out later. And it did.

Once the pot was as full as it could get, I heaved it over to the stove and turned the heat up to a little higher than medium for a nice simmer:

cooking a large batch of tomatoes on stovetop
cooking a large batch of tomatoes on stovetop

Don’t add any water to the tomatoes. As they cook down, they will create their own juices to simmer in.

Just keep stirring every now and then to prevent scorching on the bottom. As the tomatoes reduced, I added in some remaining frozen tomatoes. Continue to slowly simmer until the tomatoes are nice and soft.

Next, I moved my production to the bathroom where my food strainer was set up. My bathroom counter is the only one that my strainer will clamp onto.

This is a Back To Basics Food Strainer/Mill. You put the tomatoes in the top, turn the handle, and the juice comes out of the shoot with the peels and seeds squeezed out the end to discard.

straining the cooked tomatoes
straining the cooked tomatoes

It works quite well, though it’s a messy chore. You might see tomato juice splattered on my wall if you look close enough.

Return the juice to the pot and bring to a low simmer. Heat it to 190F. Be sure you don’t bring it to a boil:

simmering tomato juice on stovetop
simmering tomato juice on stovetop

Meanwhile, your jars should be clean and warm. I run mine through the dishwasher to keep them sanitized and hot until I’m ready to use them. You should also have a small pot of simmering water going for your lids to be sanitized in (for at least five minutes).

Ladle the hot juice into hot jars. Fill it just shy of the funnel for now:

ladling hot tomato juice into canning jar
ladling hot tomato juice into canning jar

Now, this is where experience teaches what the books fail to mention. NOW is when you add the lemon juice. See, all of the books say to add bottled lemon juice to each jar, and then fill it with sauce.

But I learned one day the hard way that cold lemon juice from the fridge poured into a hot jar will immediately cause the glass to crack.

Do yourself a favor and add the lemon juice to an already filled jar: 1 Tbsp lemon juice per pint; 2 Tbsp lemon juice per quart jar.

adding lemon juice to jar full of tomato juice to can
adding lemon juice to jar full of tomato juice to can

Then top it off with enough tomato juice to fill the jar leaving 1/4 in. headspace.

Using a wet cloth, wipe the rim of the jar to remove any drops of food or anything that could prevent the lid from sealing:

wiping jar filled with tomato juice with cloth
wiping jar filled with tomato juice with cloth

Now you’re ready to put your previously simmered lid onto your jar:

putting lid to canning jar using a magnetic lid lifter
putting lid to canning jar using a magnetic lid lifter

And screw the ring on snuggly:

screwing lid on jar of canned tomato juice
screwing lid on jar of canned tomato juice

Set your jar aside and repeat this process until you have all of your sauce in jars. If you have a small amount of leftover sauce you can either cool it and put it in the fridge in a clean jar, or freeze it in a Ziploc

Time to break out the water bath canner! This guy takes forever to bring to a boil, so get a head start by filling it with very hot water before placing on the stovetop.

jars of tomato juice inside water bath canner
jars of tomato juice inside water bath canner

Once the water starts boiling, you can submerge your jars in a jar rack. The water needs to cover the jars by at least 1″.

Put the lid on the canner and bring back to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling again you can start your processing time: pints for 35 min. and quarts for 40 min. If you have pints and quarts together, process them all for 40 min.

When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner, and allow them to cool for 24 hours before testing the lids. I like to make sure the rings are still tight before the jars cool.

Also,  you may have a problem with the jars spewing over when you remove them from the canner. I think almost all of mine leaked some juice out as I was placing them on the cooling rack.

Don’t worry about that, though. It has been my experience that the lids will still seal even though the jars have leaked a little before cooling. Just test the lids to make sure they don’t come off when pried with your fingers.

If one of your lids does not seal, just stick that jar in the fridge to use within a week, or pour that juice into a Ziploc to freeze for a future use. You can also re-can it using a fresh lid and a clean jar.

Although I didn’t add any spices to my tomato juice, it still tasted really yummy, and surprisingly sweet when cooled. I’m glad to have this on my shelves for making my favorite vegetable beef soup!

Have you ever tried canning tomato juice? Got a tip you can share?

28 thoughts on “How To Can Tomato Juice”

  1. I cooked down cherry tomatoes In crock pot, strained and made tons of tomato juice from the tomatoes. I used the strained tomato juice (pure liquid from crock pot) in a big pot for my hot packed whole tomatoes. After tomatoes heated and juice covered tomatoes in pot, I hot packed the whole tomatoes topped the jars with the juice And ended up having about a gallon of juice left over. This is pure juice from the original crockpot. Can I reuse this juice since it has been heated and use it the next batch of hot pack whole tomatoes? I kept the juice in the fridge for a couple of days and then froze the entire juice in quart jars because Iā€™m not sure if I could use the juice again in a hot pack of whole tomatoes. Pure juice, no critic acid in frozen juice. Any advice out there?

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  2. We’ve been canning salsa and stewed tomatoes for years, but did juice for the first time last year. What a blessing it has been! With 4 kids into all sorts of activities, and our vow to never eat fast food, we developed some quick soup recipes. By far the favorite was tomato. Take 1 qt of stewed tomatoes, 1 qt of juice, garlic and spices (basil, dill, oregano, etc) to create whatever taste you want. Salt to taste. Throw in some Parmesan and milk/cream if you want, then blend it with a submersible blender. The kids fight over who gets to take the leftovers for lunch to school the next day!

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  3. Thank you for this great post Kendra, I will definitely try it. You know, as a kid my dad always had a veggie garden every summer (I think he was a frustrated farmer). My mom then used to mince the excess tomatoes with her meat mincer (!!) and pour the pulp into ice cube trays, freeze and then decant into zip loc bags. Every time she cooked stew or soup, which was most days, one or two of the cubes would be added. I know this isn’t what your post was about, but I just thought I would share it anyway as it’s so quick and easy to do if you haven’t the time or inclination to bother with canning.
    This is now completely off topic, but when I’ve cooked a roast I also freeze leftover gravy this way for some instant ‘stock cubes’ for later use.

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  4. I think it’s because a lot of people use a food mill to strain, which won’t push raw tomatoes through. Most importantly, when using the strainer like we have, there’s no need to peel the tomatoes. Just wash them off, quarter, and grind away.

    This is also the same process for making tomato sauce. The only difference is that you cook the sauce down until it’s as thick as you want. You can add spices if you want, but I wait until I’ve decided what I’m doing with each jar so I can change it up a bit.

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  5. First I want to say that I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate your blog. It’s my best find for 2012!

    Second, I’ve done tomato juice as well as tomato sauce for years. My strainer is similar to yours and I love it. (I have the advantage of being able to attach it to the kitchen table, so I don’t need to use the bathroom!)

    I’m wondering, though, why you cook the tomatoes before straining them? I’ve never done it with frozen ones, so I suppose you’d have to let them thaw, but I just quarter raw ones and crank ’em right through. (Or if my arthritis is kicking up, I have my son come visit and he does the cranking.) It seems to me this would eliminate a step and quite a bit of the mess.

    Just curious.

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      • I just wash and quarter my tomatoes, put them in a blender, when it looks like all chunks are juice, pour it into my food mill to get ride of seeds and skins, then pour the juice into my pot and cook to what thickness I want. Put in jars in water bath for 40 minutes. Done

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  6. Hi Kendra, canned tomato juice is the best! I have the same sauce maker/mill that you do. Did you know that it is so efficient that you don’t have to cook your tomatoes first. Just give em a good wash. Halve or quarter and put thru the mill. Then finish as you did. It saves so much time and you end up with the same results. Happy New Year!!

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  7. By the way.. I just tried canning pomegranate jelly.. I have a disaster on my hands..:-(. I have 10 half pints of pomegranate jelly that didn’t set.. How can I fix that??

    Reply
    • Justine,

      I have found that some jellies need to sit on the shelf for a couple of months before they set up (my grape jelly did that). If all else fails, I bet it’ll make a fantastic syrup šŸ˜‰ Next time, you might need to let it boil a bit longer to get it to the right consistency before canning. Did you do the “spoon test” to make sure the jelly was ready?

      Reply
  8. Kendra, this is awesome. Thank you for posting.
    Hubby and I have been trying to find ways to do tomatoe juice as my husband is addicted to it (and the store-bought is not only expensive but loaded with salt!). I am saving this post in my favorites so that we can do this in the summer! Right now, hubby is buying tomatoe paste from the store and makes a jug from there (adding his own salt to taste). I love that we will be able to do this ourselves! THANK YOU!

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  9. We had a very small harvest of tomatoes this year. But I’m hoping to do this next year šŸ™‚ I notice that you have a glass top electric range very similar to mine. I have problems canning on mine and I wondered if you do too?

    I’d love to have you share this on Wildcrafting Wednesday this week! You can find me at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/

    Happy New Year!

    Reply

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