Last night, I stayed up ’til almost 1am 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!
(If you missed it, check out my article on How To Freeze Tomatoes.)
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. Be warned, if you have small children this task might take you deep into the night…
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 my large pressure canner. No, 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. 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. I apologize for a toilet being next to my food production. Just go with it.
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. It works quite well, though it’s a messy chore. You might see tomato juice splattered on my bathroom wall if you look close enough.
Return the juice to the pot and bring to a low simmer. The books says to heat it to 190*, but I don’t have a thermometer so I just winged it. Be sure you don’t bring it to a boil.
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.
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.
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.
Now you’re ready to put your previously simmered lid onto your jar.
And screw the ring on snuggly. 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. 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 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 shortcut you can share??