A few nights ago, we canned our own tomato juice. We found out that it is very efficient and easy! Discover the three reasons why you should can tomato juice every year.
Reason 1: Tomatoes are easy to grow.
You can even grow them in containers if you don’t have room for a garden! In fact, they are so easy to grow that when they are in season they will most likely produce far more than you can eat. Canning them is a perfect solution.
Reason 2: Homegrown tomatoes taste a million times better!
I have a friend who won’t eat tomatoes. But, she’s only ever tasted store-bought tomatoes. All the tomatoes at your local grocery, even the ones that say “picked ripe,” are picked too green to eat. With time, they turn red. However, I have read that tomatoes are the only fruit that does not ripen after it has been picked. It may be red, but the tomato tastes exactly the same as it did when it was picked. Green tomatoes have virtually no taste! Ripe tomatoes, picked red just as they start to turn soft, are bursting with flavor. Once you’ve picked and eaten a ripe tomato, you will never go back!
Reason 3: There are serious health concerns with factory canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato juice.
Factory tomato cans often contain aluminum or BPA. Over time the acid in the tomatoes attacks and absorbs these dangerous chemicals, creating a toxic stew of tomatoes that were picked green, aluminum and BPA. Home-canned tomato products don’t carry any of these dangers; and tomatoes are a good ‘starter’ project for folks new to gardening and preserving.
The Lehman Family’s Quick And Easy Tomato Juice Recipe
Here’s how we canned our tomatoes: We cut our ripe tomatoes in half, and also cut out any bad spots. We filled an 8 quart kettle with one picking of our tomatoes from just two plants. Then, we added about 1 1/2? of water and sprinkle canning salt over the tomatoes. Next, we cooked the batch on low heat for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes are ready to juice when they are soft and the skin is wrinkly.
You can also cook in jalepeno peppers, green peppers, onions or pepper to create the flavor you like. The right kind of food mill will reduce everything to a consistent juice or sauce. We make ours plain because we use it for drinking, cooking, and making sauce. We add the other flavors when we open the canning jars.
Pre-heat your jars on a sheet cake tray in the oven. Using hot jars helps to keep them from shattering when you pour in the hot juice. It also improves the chances of having a good seal. Sterilize your canning lids in boiling water, OR follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the box (some lids no longer need to be sterilized).
Slowly and carefully, pour the cooked tomatoes into a Lehman’s Weston Food Mill, avoiding splatters, as the tomatoes are hot. A food mill is one of the most amazing time savers ever invented for home canning! Once you pour the tomatoes into the funnel, turn the crank. It quickly and effortlessly separates the juice and pulp from the skin and seeds.
After you produce the juice, taste test a spoonful. (Remember, it will be HOT!) If desired, add more salt to the juice.
Remove the tray of hot jars from the oven and pour the juice through a stainless steel canning funnel into the jars. Fill within a half inch of the top.
High acid foods (like tomatoes) require extra care in processing. Process your tomato juice safely in a water bath canner. Follow the canning instructions from National Center for Home Food Preservation for the proper process to can tomato juice in quarts, pints, and different altitudes listed (depending on where you live, times can vary due to altitude).
After canning, remove the jars to cool. It’s best to place them on a soft surface, such as a clean dishtowel. Within 20-40 minutes the lids should “pop” down and produce a “ping,” ensuring a good seal. Do not disturb the jars until the next day. After this lengthy “setting up” period, you can remove and reuse the rings while the jars stay sealed. Any jars that did not “pop” down should be refrigerated and used immediately. After you let the jars cool, label the jars with the contents and the date you canned them.
For complete instructions on canning, you may find these books helpful:
The Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
The Joy of Pickling Book
Saving the Seasons: How to Can, Freeze and Dry Almost Anything
Wishing you great canning success–
Editor’s Note: First published in August 2012. Here’s a good tutorial on using a water bath canner: