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It’s nearing the end of tomato season here in Florida, but for many of you, the season is just beginning. When all those tomatoes finally ripen, you may be wondering what to do with them. Whether you go to a U-pick farm, purchase from a reliable vegetable vendor or have an overabundance of fresh garden tomatoes, this is a wonderful way to get the highest yield for your efforts. It’s a great project for a rainy afternoon!
I used 30 lbs. of tomatoes and I managed to make 10 quarts of juice. This is great juice for drinking or it can also be used for cooking. In this recipe, I didn’t spice it up too much—I just added a few veggies to give it a little more flavor (well within USDA guidelines!).
Start out with the freshest and ripest tomatoes available. Wash them thoroughly and cut off any blemishes or excessive core parts. Cut them into quarters or eighths depending on the size of the tomato.
I use a Victorio strainer and at this point, feed the cut-up tomatoes into the hopper. This strainer separates the skin and seeds and just leaves the juice. Pour juice into a large stock pot and start to heat it, constantly adding while the juice is being extracted.
Alternate method not using a Victorio Stainer:
Slice or quarter all of the tomatoes a couple of pounds at a time and put into a large pot. Heat immediately to boiling while crushing. A potato masher works well. Continue to slowly add and crush freshly cut tomato quarters to the boiling mixture. Make sure the mixture boils constantly and vigorously while you add the remaining tomatoes. When the pot is full, heat this for another 5 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches.)
Press the heated tomato juice through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. You can also use a juicer if it is one made for hot liquids. Keep adding the juice to a large stock pot as it’s being extracted.
Bring the pot of juice to a boil and let this boil for about 10 minutes and skim off any large amounts of white foam. At this point, the juice will be watery. Turn the pot down to a low boil and add the green pepper, celery, onion, garlic and parsley. Cook for about an hour and a half, occasionally stirring and until you see the consistency of tomato juice. This could take less time or could take more time, depending on the amount of water in your tomatoes. When your juice has cooked to the desired consistency, it is time to add salt and pepper. Add by constantly tasting and adding.
While the tomato juice is cooking, prepare your jars. Wash your jars in soapy hot water and inspect the tops for any chips or cracks.
Fill a large canning pot with water and bring to a simmer. Keep it full by adding in more water. You want it to be at the boiling point when you add the jars for processing.
As the tomato juice begins to thicken, start sterilizing your jars. I usually put about 3 inches of water into a large roast pan and bring it to a boil. Bring it down to a simmer and sit the jars upside down in the pan and let them sit in there for at least 10 minutes. Add your lids too.
Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the bottom of each quart jar (1 tablespoon to a pint). This will acidify the juice and helps avoid spoilage and increase safety.
Fill jars with hot tomato juice, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Immediately put on a hot lid and hand tighten it with a band and set into the canner rack.
Ensure that the water in the canner is boiling and lower the rack. There should be about 1-2 inches of water covering the top of the jars. Process the quart jars for 35 minutes (process pints for 30 minutes).
Be very carefull! Things are HOT!
Lift the jars out of the water with jar grips and let them cool on a towel, without touching or bumping in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight). 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.
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