How to Make and Can Tomato Juice - Easily! With Step-by-step Photos, Recipe, Directions, Ingredients and Costs
This month's notes: July 2016: Strawberries have a very brief season; and the start in early April in the South, don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions
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How to Make and Can Tomato Juice at Home - Easily!Mixed tomato-vegetable juice (like "V8") see this page.
- Tomatoes (any quantity - see step one)
- Lemon Juice (less than a cup)
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)-
Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is
available online - see this page. It's a tremendously useful to
put jars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding
yourself!). The kit sold below has everything you need, and at a pretty
- At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Water Bath or Pressure Canner - see this page for more information).
- Canning jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $7 per dozen 8 ounce jars including the lids and rings)
- Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
- Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
- Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at big box stores or it comes in the kit at left)
Step 1 - Selecting the tomatoes
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 3¼ 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.
Step 2 - Wash the jars and lids
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 unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 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.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
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Step 3 - Cut up the tomatoes and quickly put into the pot
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? Certainly! It will eliminate step 6 and 7 later on, but, of course, you will need to simmer for 5 minutes (step 5). The one potential downside to using a juicer is that the juice may later separate (clarify) into a top and bottom portion, for the reasons already explained above.
Step 4 - Heat to boiling and keep adding tomatoes
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.
Step 5 - Continue cooking
Simmer 5 minutes after you add all pieces. Crush, heat, and simmer for 5 minutes before juicing.
Step 6 - Sieve
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!
Step 7 - Heat the strained tomato juice again
Heat the juice again to boiling.
Step 8 - Add lemon juice and seasoning TO EACH STILL EMPTY JAR
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.
Step 9 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on
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|
Step 10 - Remove the jars
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!
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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Home Canning Kits
* All the tools you need for hot waterbath canning - in one comprehensive set!
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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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Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for jam, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Jam - makes 8 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2006||Source||Subtotal|
|Berries (strawberries)||1 gallon||$8.00/gallon||Pick your own||$8.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||18 jars||$7.00/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$10.00|
|Sugar||4 cups||$2.00||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.00|
|Pectin (low sugar, dry)||1 and a third boxes *||$2.00 per box||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.70|
or about $1.25 per jar
* pectin use varies - blackberry jam needs very little, raspberry a
little more, strawberry the most. |
** - 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)!
Can't find the equipment? We ship to all 50 states!
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FAQs - Answers to Common Questions
As my jars are cooling after i take them out of the canner, they sometimes make a popping or hissing noise. Is this normal and safe?
Yes, the lids are designed to flex and that's actually a key selling point. You can tell if a jar hasn't sealed properly (after it has cooled completely) if the lid flexes and makes a popping sound when you press the center of the lid with your finger. The popping sounds while it is cooling is the lid being sucked down by the vacuum that is forming inside the jar - which a normal part of the sealing process. Hissing sounds are usually just escaping steam or hot water evaporating on hot surfaces, also normal!
- Why should cooked jelly be made in small batches?
If a larger quantity of juice is used, it will be necessary to boil it longer thus causing loss of flavor, darkening of jelly, and toughening of jelly. It really doesn't work. Trust me; I've tried many times!
- Can I use
frozen berries instead of fresh?
Yep! Raspberries can be particularly hard to find fresh and are expensive! Frozen berries work just fine, and measure the same. Just be sure to get the loose, frozen whole fruit; not those that have been mushed up or frozen in a sugar syrup!
- Should jelly be boiled slowly or
It should be boiled rapidly since long, slow boiling destroys the pectin in the fruit juice.
What do I do if there's mold on my jam, jelly or preserves?
Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (poisonous substance that can make you sick). USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or jelly. See this page from the US Food Safety and Inspection Service for more information. (and this page for a pdf version)
did my jellied fruit product ferment, and what do I do?
Jellied fruit products may ferment because of yeast growth. This can occur if the product is improperly processed and sealed, or if the sugar content is low. Fermented fruit products have a disagreeable taste. Discard them.
- What happens if my jam
or jelly doesn't gel?
Remaking cooked runny jam or jelly instructions can be found on this page
- What is the best way to deseed berries for jam? I heard a few different
ways. A food mill, a ricer, and cheese cloth.
For large seeds (blackberries, apples, and larger) I find a Foley Food Mill works best - it's certainly faster and easier than the other methods. Raspberry and smaller seeds are a real pain. They get stuck in (and clog) or pass through a food mill. The Villaware mill has a smaller screen that works great for them! See this page for more information about both strainers. Cheesecloth and jelly strainers are messy, take forever and you lose most of the pulp. For these, I find a metal sieve or colander (with small enough holes) and a spatula to help mush them and push the pulp through, is best. Also, heating the mushed up berries almost to boiling really helps to separate the seeds and pulp.
- Click here to see our complete list of frequently asked questions on this page!
[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!] [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]
Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
[ All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]