Cooking with Lou

Canning Tomatoes: Tomato Juice

– Posted in: Vegetables

Canning Tomatoes for Tomato Juice: Not Difficult, Just a Little Messy

Thick rich tomato juiceI learned how to can tomatoes when I was quite young (around 10 or 11). My job was grinding the tomatoes through the food mill.  My mother, grandmother and older sister took on the cooking and boiling water steps. I couldn’t see over the top of the canning pot. We had tomatoes growing in our large garden, but my mother always ended up with a few extra bushels.

As I think back, it seems like every time we were canning tomatoes it was either the week of marching band practice, or the week of the Paulding County Fair. My sister and I would come home from practice, totally exhausted from 4 hours of marching and practicing for the up coming football season, only to find Mother ready to can tomatoes. The week of the fair would be the same thing, come back from working our shifts in the Music Mother’s food tent to find Mother canning peaches or green beans or apple sauce. Have no fear, my mother worked full time and this was the week she took off just to can. She also worked the Music Mother’s food tent and prepared soups and pies to be served there. Yes, she was just as exhausted as we were… maybe more so!

Each year we canned upwards of two dozen jars of tomato juice, the same in peaches and apple sauce. By the end of the winter, it would be all gone! Five kids, two parents, and my grandmother devoured what we canned and what we froze.

I’m going to tell you how I do it now, not much different, just fewer people in the kitchen. The  method I use is called a “Water Bath”.

Step 1: Assemble the Toolscanning pot with jar rack

The proper tools are an absolute necessity. Everything you touch is going to be hot: hot tomatoes, boiling water, sterilized jars and lids.

  1. Canning pot with jar rack and lid
  2. Canning jars (quarts or pints)
  3. Funnel
  4. Sealable lids
  5. Jar rings
  6. Tongs specifically made to remove jars from boiling water.
  7. Food mill
  8. 1 or 2 large pots (one to cook raw tomatoes, the other to heat the juice before pouring into jar

canning tools

Items 2 – 6 can be purchased in a kit at Walmart or your local grocery store.

Step 2: Preparing the Tomatoes for Processing

      1. Fill the jars you are going to use with water, place them in the jar rack, inside the canning pot. Lower it into the pot. Now fill the pot until it covers the jars by about an inch.  (My advice is to put the pot on the stove and fill with water using a clean milk jug or large pitcher. The pot gets really heavy and hard to move if it’s full of water and jars.
      2. Let the water boil over the jars for about 10 minutes. This sterilizes the jars. I also add the lids into the pot, as well.  This method also indicates how much water you will need in the pot for the final boiling process of the “canned tomatoes”. (Water displacement)
      3. If you’re using large tomatoes, cut them into quarters, remove the stem portion, and put into a large soup pot. If you have some cherry or grape tomatoes to use up, just plunk them into the pot. Fill it to the top. If you have more, either start them in another pot, or do them in batches.  20-25 pound of tomatoes ( about a half a bushel) makes 6 or 7 quarts.
      4. Add a cup of water to the tomatoes. (That’s just so the tomatoes on the bottom don’t stick before they get to simmering. You could mush the tomatoes down in the pot, as that would create some liquid as well.)  Turn the heat to medium high and get them going. Once they start to bubble, turn them down to  medium low. You just want them to be on a medium simmer until they are pretty much broken down. Cover the pot, it keeps the flavor in, as well as, speeding up the cooking process. Every now and then, give the pot a stir.simmered tomatoes
      5. I find it easier to grind up the tomatoes if I mash any big chunks, so as my tomatoes simmer, I take an old fashioned potato masher (not a ricer) and mash and stir with that. This pot was pretty much full when I started, now after cooking it’s about 2/3 full.  To make my 7 quarts, I had another pot going with what ever didn’t fit into this one.
      6. The water in the canning pot should have boiled by now, so you can carefully remove the sterilized jars. Use the jar tongs to firmly grab the jar just below the mouth. Make sure you have a good grip. Dump the water into the sink. I pull the jar out of the boiling water, set it on the counter, and then grab the jar with my oven hands that have gripper strips on them. Be very careful. The water is extremely hot. Figure out how you’re going to remove the jars before you start.   Don’t turn the water off. Keep it boiling or at least almost boiling.
      7. When the tomatoes are cooked, you can begin to make juice. Place the food mill over a large container. Make sure the food mill sits securely on the pot or container you are using to hold the juice.  (I use an 4 quart measuring bowl with a spout and a handle.) and ladle in your tomatoes into the mill.
      8. Fill the food mill no more than 2/3 full and begin milling the tomatoes. When the tomatoes are fully milled, you should have nothing but skins and seeds. Every 12 turns or so, reverse direction for a couple of turns. This scrapes the bottom of the mill. After each grinding cycle, dump the remains (they’re great for a compost pile). Make sure that the scraper on the bottom of the food mill is still securely screwed on the grinder.  tomatoes in food mill Fully milled tomatoesWhen you have finished all of the tomatoes and the juice is hot, pour int heat the juice until it is hot(no need to boil).  If the juice is still hot you can skip this step. Keeping the juice hot, prevents the water temp in the canning pot from falling too far.
      9.  Place all of the jars and lids where you can get to them easily. filling jarsPlace the funnel in the first jar, and fill it to the top of the jar, just below the mouth. Place a sealing lid on the top, screw on the ring. DO NOT seal tight, just until the ring is no longer loose.jar filled with tomato juice
      10. Keep gong until all of the juice is in jars. If you can’t completely fill that last jar..just put a lid on it, put it in the refrigerator when it’s cooled. Use it with 5-10 days. Do Not can partial jars of juice.
      11. When you have filled and gently sealed all the jars, place the filled jars into the rack.  If you didn’t lift the rack from the boiling water, don’t worry.  Do so, now. Raise it up and hook the handles on the side of the pot. Place each jar into a slot in the rack, If you don’t have a full rack, make sure the jars in the rack are balanced and secure. In other words, don’t put them all together on one side. Alternate sides, as you place the jars into the rack.  Carefully lift the rack, and lower into the boiling water. If the water is not still boiling, no problem, put the rack in anyway.  Be VERY careful to not splash the water. It is hot, even if it is not boiling.  The steam is also hot, so be careful. Make sure you are protected and are using hot pads to lower the rack. Just in case. I use my Ove Gloves (TM) to do this. I have use of my fingers and the grip strips make for a secure grip.
      12. One you have all the jars in the rack, lower it into the water. Make sure the water level is about an inch above the jars. If you need to, add water. Make it hot water. Now, bring the canning pot up to a boil. Once it is boiling, set your timer for 40 minutes. That’s how long it takes to fully sterilize the jars, lids, and contents of the jars. Cover the pot to keep the steam in, otherwise your water level will drop. NOT a GOOD THING.
      13. After the canning pot has boiled for 40 minutes, turn the water off. Use the tongs to remove each jar. Grab the jar just below the mouth. Make sure you have a good solid grip. Use both hands if you need to. Just maintain a consistent firm grip. Once all the jars are out of the water. Tighten each jar lid as tightly as you can. Now, stand back and listen. As the jars begin to cool, you will hear the leads pop. This is good. After the jars have cooled, make sure that each jar lid has popped. This means, if you press on the center of the lid, there is no give in the top. As the jars cool, a vacuum is created and the lid should have completely sealed.  The lid should not have a raised dimple in the center.
      14. You’re DONE!!!!! If you’re like me, you have a mess surrounding you. Don’t despair, it’s worth it

0 Comments… add one