Canning season is upon us! Our family juices tomatoes and cans it for future use. We used to also can whole tomatoes, but since I am the only one who would eat them, we stopped doing that! We love having tomato juice all year long. We use it for chili, spaghetti sauce, lasagna and many other things. Plus, we love to give out jars for gifts, especially at Christmas time! There are so many different things that you can freeze or can, but this is what our family does and it's about all we have time for!
Here is our tried and tested way of juicing and canning. This is the method that my grandmother used, my dad uses and we will continue to use. There are many different methods out there, so please do some research and find what works best for you!
1. Pick the Tomatoes
Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the garden before we started picking, but as you can see, we will be picking more soon! Our plants have gone crazy this year, which is a blessing because last year was not a good crop.
2. Wash the tomatoes
Wash each tomato to be sure that there is no dirt or bugs on them. We do our entire juicing process outside for easier cleanup. (We do the actual canning inside, but we will get to that in a few more steps.)
3. De-stem and cut into chunks
We (our kids help too - they are 16, 14 and 10) cut the stems out of all of them except the cherry tomatoes. Our juicer will take care of that for us so it saves us time. We put them all in big bowls and then take them to the juicing table.
4. Start Juicing
We use the Norpro Sauce Master. My grandma used this for years and my dad received hers when she passed. He has since had to purchase a new one, but still keeps the parts of Grandma's around. When Dad bought his, he graciously purchased one for us as well. We love it!
Place the chunks of tomatoes into the hopper and use the plunger to push them down all while turning the handle. My husband is the best and generally does this job with the assistance of the kids!
As you are turning the handle, the juice starts to come down and the waste (skin and seeds) deposits out from the side. Continue to do this until all of the tomatoes have been ran through. When our waste container is full, we actually run that back through the juicer one more time. It is amazing to see how much juice is still in there! If you do it more than that, you can get a bitter tasting juice and no one wants that!
We pour the juice from the smaller container into gallon sized glass jars and then I take them into the house to start the cooking process.
I fill two large pots with the juice and bring it to a boil. Add one teaspoon of salt per quart of juice you have in each pot. This is why I love putting the juice into gallon jars so I know the exact amount of salt needed. Once boiling, I let it continue for 3-5 minutes. You want the juice to be super hot. Please be careful of it boiling over. It can happen and is a huge mess.....speaking from experience!!
While the juice is heating up, I also heat up the jars. I found an old, large roasting pan at Goodwill one year and it is awesome for this. I place it over 2 burners and put an inch to inch and a half of water in it. I place my jars upside down in the water as well as the lids. You don't necessarily need the water to boil, but you do want to get the jars and lids hot because that helps them seal.
**This part can be dangerous because you are dealing with very hot liquid. I do not let my children help with this part. In fact, I encourage them to stay out of the kitchen so no accidents can happen.**
Once all of the items are heated up, it is time to place the juice into the jars. I use a glass measuring cup to dip juice out of the large pots and pour into the jars. When grabbing the jars, please remember that they are hot! I use the gloves pictured below. They are textured to help grip the jar and the lid.
Fill the jar just up to the neck. Be sure that the lip of the jar is dry and clean. Grab a lid from the water with a pair of tongs and place it on top of the jar. Then using the gloves (or pot holders) tighten the lid onto the jar as tight as you can get it and then set it on a counter that is protected from the heat. I use an old bath towel that I fold in half.
Continue this process until you have all of the juice in jars. Be sure that you are letting the jars and the juice get very hot!
As the jars begin to cool, they will start to seal on their own. You may hear some popping noises as the seal or they will just quietly go. I enjoy hearing the popping noises because I know that the process has worked. The jars will stay hot for a very long time so use caution with your little ones. Once they are cool (usually the next day), we label the lid with the year and then we store them in our basement.
Again, this is just one method of canning tomato juice. If this is something you'd like to try, do some research and find a method that would work best for you and your family!
Leave us a comment of what your family cans each year or what you grow in your garden.