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It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality tomatoes!
Wash, remove stems, and trim off bruised or discolored portions of the tomatoes.
Quantity: An average of 23 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts, or an average of 14 pounds per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs about 53 pounds and yields 15 to 18 quarts of juice - an average of 31/4 pounds per quart.
At right is a picture of tomatoes from my garden - they are so much better than anything from the grocery store. And if you don't have enough, a pick-your-own farm is the pace to go! At right are 4 common varieties that will work:
|Top left: Beefsteak||Top right: Lemon Boy, yellow|
|Bottom left: Roma, paste-type||Bottom right: Better Boy|
Also, you don't want mushy, bruised or rotten tomatoes!
Caution: Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines. Green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit and can be canned safely, also.
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If a canning recipe calls for 10 minutes or more of process time in the canner, then the jars do not need to be "sanitized" before filling them. But really, sanitizing them first is just good hygeine and common sense! See this page for more detail about cleaning and sanitizing jars and lids.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 10 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
Lids: put the lids into a pan of hot water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.
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To prevent the juice from separating, quickly cut about 1 pound of tomatoes at a time into quarters and put directly into a saucepan on the stove. (If you are not concerned about juice separation, simply slice or quarter all of the tomatoes at once into a large saucepan.)
Juicers? Can you use a juicer? There is no official guidance on the use of juicers from any reputable source (Ball Blue Book., NCFHFP, Mrs. Wages Corp, etc.) I've heard informal discussion about entrained air bubbles and specks of tomato seeds, but it seems to be that these are natural parts of the fruit and process and would become uniformly dispersed and santitized in the cooking and canning, so until I see official, credible research to the countrary, I'm doing... and to no ill efect!
Heat immediately to boiling while crushing (I use a potato masher). Continue to slowly add and crush freshly cut tomato quarters to the boiling mixture; repeating steps 4 and 5. Make sure the mixture boils constantly and vigorously while you add the remaining tomatoes.
Simmer 5 minutes after you add all pieces. Crush, heat, and simmer for 5 minutes before juicing.
Press the heated tomato juice through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. I use the Foley food mill, shown at right
There is also a VERY nice, versatile strainer pictured at below! Click on the links there or see the bottom of this page for more information and to order! The VillaWare model can handle higher volumes than a Foley food mill (without giving you cramps!) And yes, you can use your juicer, if it can handle boiling hot liquids!
To see a greater variety of strainers in other types, sizes, and prices, click here!
Heat the juice again to boiling.
Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars, as described in the next paragraph, to acidify the contents. This helps avoid spoilage and increase safety.
Acidification: To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid (such as "Fruit Fresh") per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes, compared with lemon juice or citric acid.
Seasoning: Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired. I also add 1 teaspoon of ground basil.
Fill jars with hot tomato juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process following to the instructions in the tables below according to the type of canner you have. (Acidification is still required for the pressure canning options; follow all steps in the Procedures above for any of the processing options.)
Note: the charts below will help you determine the right processing time and pressure, if you have a different type of canner, or are above sea level.
Water Bath Canner:
|Table 1. Recommended process time for Tomato Juice in a boiling-water canner. (shown at left)|
|Hot pack||Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 - 3,000 ft||3,001 - 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
|Table 2. Recommended process time for Tomato Juice in a dial-gauge pressure canner. (not shown)|
|Hot pack||Canner Gauge Pressure
(PSI) at Altitudes of
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 2,000 ft||2,001 - 4,000 ft||4,001 - 6,000 ft||6,001 - 8,000 ft|
|20 min||6 lb||7 lb||8 lb||9 lb|
|Table 3. Recommended process time for Tomato Juice in a weighted-gauge pressure canner (not shown).|
|Hot pack||Canner Gauge Pressure
(PSI) at Altitudes
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 1,000 ft||Above 1,000 ft|
|20 min||5 lb||10 lb|
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool on a wooden cutting board or a towel, without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. You're done!
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But
after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny.
They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So
eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!
Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Tomato Juice
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2018||Source||Subtotal|
|Tomatoes||1 gallon||free from your garden||your garden or neighbor|
|Canning jars (quart size), includes lids and rings||12 jars||$9.00/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$9.00|
|Lemon juice||1 cup||$1.00||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$1.00|
or about $0.83 per quart jar
* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars and reduce the cost further; just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!
This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 1994.
From left to right:
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This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to
make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and
spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and
lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting
wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning,
the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately.
You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are
reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes).
To see more canners, of
different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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