Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Canning Tomatoes

It's about that time of year - fresh tomatoes = canning tomato juice.
We usually can a lot of tomato juice every year and enjoy "fresh" juice throughout the year for soups and chili.  I know there are lots of ways to put up tomato juice, but this is the way my grandmother Pruett taught me (and my mom continues to do her juice the same way). 
I remember standing in mamaw's kitchen with her talking me through all of the steps and telling me tips along the way.  This was just a few years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer', so I am glad I have this sweet memory.  One thing that stands out in my mind is washing tomatoes and cutting out the cores and bad spots - Mamaw said if you miss a bad spot it can make your whole batch of juice taste bad.
We like to do pretty large batches at a time, but you could really do just a few jars at a time.
**fyi - these pictures are from last year. 

A sink full of tomatoes usually equals a cooker full of juice,
I guess depending on the size of your sink and/or pot!
I planted several Roma tomato plants because I have read they produce a lot of juice.  I also had several other varieties and used those too.  I just removed the stems, cut in half or quartered for larger tomatoes, and added them to the pot.

Add a few inches of water to keep anything from scorching on the bottom.  Use medium-low heat and let the tomatoes cook down until they are "soft".  Be sure to stir a lot in the beginning, again, to keep anything from scorching.

Ok, here comes the "juicing" part.  Below is a picture of the juicer that came from my Mamaw's house.  I guess there may be a more modern piece of equipment that can be purchased now, but this is what we use.
Put in a few cups of your cooked tomatoes and get to turning!
This juicer makes a distinct grinding sound when you turn it, I remember hearing it a lot when I was a little kid.  Turn clockwise several turns, give it a spin counter-clockwise and then back clockwise until all that is left is the pulp, peeling, and seeds.  I am sure there is a use for this stuff, but we usually just throw it out.
You should be left with this beautiful juice -

Put your juice back on the heat to make sure it is really hot before putting it in the jars.  This will help ensure the jars seal.
Tired yet? Take a bologna break -
Ok, prepping the jars.  We usually run them through the dishwasher to maker sure they are good and hot. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to each quart jar. 


A funnel helps when adding the juice to the jars.
Meanwhile - Put your flats in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Use a clean cloth to clean the rim of your jar, use tongs to retrieve a flat from the boiling water, place on the jars and screw on a jar ring. 
I don't know why, I am sure there is a good reason, but Ben's grandmother always turns her jars upside down to let them cool down and seal.
Make sure to check the jars after they have cooled to ensure that they have sealed.  The flat should be tight, there shouldn't be any "give" if you press on the top of the jar.
It would be easy to do a few jars at a time, we just like to make one big mess at a time!
HEre's an even easier way to can tomato juice -
  Ben's grandmother picks her tomatoes, cores them, quarters them, and then puts them in the food processor.  She doesn't cook them down and put them through the juicer, but leaves pulp, peeling, and seeds in her juice.  She then heats her juice and puts it in jars.  It's really a personal preference whether or not you want the seeds and "extra" stuff.  Either way, this will give you delicious juice that will be ready to use anytime.  Try it, you'll love it!

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