We are finally done with canning for the season. We ended up canning 18 jars of juice total, though we have probably another 150 to 200 tomatoes sitting on the vine right now. We’ll be using the rest to make home-made salsa as well as donating large quantities of tomatoes to family, friends, and neighbors. We’re already the neighborhood self-pick farm for tomatoes it seems, and that’s fine. I rather enjoy sharing the bounty of our harvest.
Speaking of bounty, our tomatoes continue to be quite prolific. Courtney found a huge branch yesterday that finally broke under its own weight. We’re hoping the tomatoes on that vine get enough sustenance to continue to grow, but if not, there are plenty others.
A friend asked for our recipe for canning tomato juice, so here it is:
Home-canned Tomato Juice
You need some basic equipment, as follows:
- Several large pots for boiling tomatoes
- One really large pot for boiling the jars
- Enough jars to handle your tomatoes (I found that it was about 2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes per quart jar)
- Lids and rings for your jars
- A canning colander and something to mash the tomatoes (we have a big wooden dowel that came with the colander)
- Pitchers to hold the juice
- A large bowl to catch the juice from the colander
- Lots of hands to do a host of dishes
Prep and boil the tomatoes
Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. Cut them into quarters and throw them into the large pots. Add just enough water to keep them from being scorched (a cup should do it), and boil them until they are soft and mushy (about 10 to 15 minutes). You can tell when they are done because the juice starts boiling high in the pan (you’ll know what I mean).
Juice the tomatoes
Pour the boiled tomatoes into the colander and smash them through. The colander should have small enough holes that it catches anything of any size from the seeds on up. If you like your tomato juice a little thicker, smash until you have little left but the skins in the colander. Repeat this process until you’ve juiced all the tomatoes, pouring the juice into a large pitcher for temporary storage.
Sterilize the jars, caps, and lids
In the meantime, sterilize enough quart jars to handle your tomatoes (again, 2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes per quart). You can sterilize them best using a dish washer, but if you don’t have one, take a cookie sheet or cake pan, add an inch of water or so, and place the jars upside down on the pan. Boil the water. The steam will enter the bottles and sterilize them. You can also boil the jars in the largest pot, but that takes time and can be difficult to manage.
At the same time you are sterilizing the jars, sterilize the caps and lids in a pan of boiling water. Once the jars and lids are sterilized, it is very important that they stay that way, so no touchy except on the outside of the jars.
Prep and fill the jars
Before pouring tomato juice in the jars, add 1 TBSP of lemon juice to each jar and 1 TSP of salt. This recipe gives the juice a slightly tart taste that I really enjoy. My dad mentioned that he’s slipped a jalapeno in as well, but, well… that’s my dad for you.
Fill the jars with juice up to the top of the neck but below the threads for the lids. If you don’t have enough to fill all the jars, even the levels out and add a little water to get the right level. Carefully wipe down the lips of the jars with a damp cloth or paper towel. You need to remove any material there because that will affect the seal. Using tongs, pick up a cap and place it on the jar. Grab a lid and tighten it down hand-tight.
Boil the jars
Place the jars in the biggest pot so that they do not hit each other (they tend to vibrate when they are boiling). My parents use a rack that holds the jars in a specific spot slightly off the bottom of the biggest pot. Fill the pot with hot water so that the jars are completely covered and set it to boil. Once it starts boiling, boil for 40 minutes.
When they are done, carefully pull the jars out of the water and place them on a thick towel. We’ve burned our table despite placing our jars on a towel and hot pads, so make sure to take steps to protect your table/counter. Also, it’s important that the area stay draft free. A draft will cool the outside of the glass too quickly and will shatter the bottles. And believe me, there is nothing like scalding hot tomato juice cascading off the counters when there are kids around.
You need to let the jars sit for at least 12 hours, but you should quickly start hearing the satisfying pops of the jars being sealed. After they’ve cooled, check the caps. If the caps are tight, the seal is good and you can store the jars. If not, the seal was broken and you should be able to re-can the juice by starting over from scratch. If, after several days, a seal is popped, the jars were contaminated and the juice is bad. Throw it out.
And there you have it. We found that it took us about 2 hours to can 6 jars (not counting the final boiling time). Certainly a lot of work, but nothing tops home-canned tomato juice. My favorite recipe is to make macaroni and add the juice with a heavy sprinkling of cheddar cheese. I’ve been known to sneak a touch of chili powder in as well, and my parents always added hamburger when we were kids. Tasty.