Monday, October 10, 2016

Fresh Tomato Juice

Tomato harvesting is going down here at the Hayes Homestead the past few weeks.  I have been a canning fool!  I actually love canning.  There is just something about preserving your fresh ingredients you grew yourself (or even if you didn't!) and being able to eat them all winter.  It's so satisfying to see all those jars neatly lined up on the shelf when you're done.  Such a great feeling!

I feel like one of the basics when it comes to canning is tomato juice.  It's the base for any type of tomato sauce and is a great addition or base to Gazpacho, chili, or my crock pot Minestrone.

When making pizza or pasta sauce, you need a lot of fresh tomato juice.  There are two different methods I use, depending on if I am chopping tomatoes for salsa or just juicing the tomatoes for sauce.

When I need lots of fresh tomato juice, this is how I do it:

Wash and halve all of the tomatoes you're turning into juice.  You can leave them whole, but cutting them in half not only makes the process a little faster, but also lets you know if anything funky is going on inside your tomato.  Even though it may look beautiful and red on the outside, it may be hiding a disgusting secret on the inside.  Trust me.  I've been there.  If you have any bad spots, just cut those out.

Once you've got all your tomatoes halved, put them in a large stock pot or Dutch oven.  Put a lid on the pot and place it over medium heat.  Let the tomatoes warm up for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and begin gently smashing the tomatoes with a potato masher.  They should smash fairly easily.  If they don't, put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes.

How much you smash is completely up to you.  I like to get as much juice out of them as I can while they're still in the pot.  Once they're smashed to your liking, transfer them to a food mill or strainer in small batches and process, squeezing as much of the juice out as possible from the flesh and seeds. If you're lucky, you have an awesome food strainer/sauce maker like this amazing one by Victorio.  It's on my wish list!

The second method to getting all that good juice from your tomatoes is what I do when making salsa or canning tomatoes.  When I scoop out all the insides of the tomatoes so I can chop them, I put all the seeds, cores, and pulp into a strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup.  Once it's full, I use a spoon to help it strain out into the measuring cup. 

Once you have all your juice, compost your pulp and either use the juice to make pizza, pasta, or any type of tomato sauce, or just can it as is.  If you aren't quite ready to use it, that's okay.  Put it in a container, seal, and store in the fridge until you're ready to use it.  I wouldn't let it sit longer than 5 days though.

Fresh tomato juice can be stored long term by either canning or freezing.  If you are freezing, fill quart or pint freezer bags, label and store.  If canning, you will want to add 1/2 tsp Citric Acid per quart or 1/4 tsp per pint and process at 11lbs of pressure for 25 minutes.

Happy preserving!

~ Sara :)

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