August 25, 2012

Adventures in Canning: Tomato Juice

My friend, Duchess T, had always wanted to try canning, but was always under the impressions that it was difficult and extremely time consuming.

Every year my mom and I take one afternoon and can enough tomato juice to last us a year. This year we invited Duchess T over to give it a try and to show her how easy it really is. 

Below is the result of our afternoon and step by step instructions

Step 1: Prepare. Wear comfy clothes that you don't mind if they get stained. Canning is messy. Be ready for a messy kitchen, it means your doing it right. If by the end of the day your kitchen is spotless, you did it wrong. And don't forget to put on some good tunes. Every project is more fun with some good music in the background.

Step 2: Buy tomatoes. We went to a local farm stand and bought seconds. Seconds are bruised, very ripe and not very petty tomatoes. Perfect for canning. We used 3 bushels of tomatoes (only one and a half bushels are shown).

Step 3: Wash the jars: Just before you start the canning process, place all of your jars in the dishwasher and wash them on the "hot" setting. You need to use warm jars when the juice is ready to can to avoid having to do a water bath. And since it's good to wash the jars first anyway, you can kill two birds with one stone.

Step 4: Cut tomatoes into pieces. Fill the sink with water and rinse the tomatoes. Don't worry about peeling them. Just cut out the core and any yucky spots. Then cut it up into chunks. It doesn't have to be pretty since you are just going to squish it up anyway.

Step 5: Cook the tomatoes: As you cut the tomatoes into chunks, put the chunks into a large pot. 

Step 6: Cook the tomatoes: When the pot is full, place it on the stove and cook the tomatoes. You do not need to add any water. As the tomatoes cook down and create the juice. When the juice is boiling, remove the pot from the stove.

Step 7: Squeeze the juice: When the tomatoes are all cooked down, use a cup to pour the juice into a rotary food press, I like to call it the squisher. Squeeze the juice into a bowl, you will likely need to use a couple of bowls. Princess B likes to help squeeze the juice.

Step 8: Bring the juice to a boil. Once all of the tomato juice has been squeezed out, pour the juice back into the pot and bring it to a boil, and don't forget to stir it here and there.

Step 9: Boil lids. At the same time you put the juice on the stove to boil, use a small pot to boil the lids for the jars.

Step 10: Pour juice into jars: Once the juice comes to a boil, stir it one last time, then use a cup and canning funnel to pour the juice into the jars. Make sure there isn't any juice on the rim of the jar. If there is, you will not get a good seal. Place the lid on the jar and screw on a ring.

Step 11: Flip the juice. Once the jar is full of juice and the lids and rings are secure, place the jar on a table or counter upside down. Repeat step 10. When the next jar is ready, flip the previous jar right side up. This will help in the sealing process. 

Step 12: The sound of success: When the lids seal to the jars you will hear a little popping sound. It's the sound of success. It might happen right away or it could happen as much as a couple of hours later. If you don't hear a popping sound and if you can push the top of the lid in, it didn't seal.

We canned three bushels of tomatoes in about six hours. In addition to tomato juice, we also canned stewed tomatoes. The three bushels made 40 jars (pints and quarts) of tomato juice and 34 jars (pints) of stewed tomatoes.

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