Friday, August 9, 2013

Esther Simpson's Tomato Juice

August is tomato month, and every time I can tomato juice, I think of my Aunt Esther.

Aunt Esther had a truly magical garden and canning operation.  If we visited her during the summer, she would say, "let's see what we can get ya" and take us out to the garden.  Most times, we would leave with a bag full of tomatoes, beans, and whatever else was ripe. If she happened to be getting ready to can beans when we arrived, we would sit on the porch and snap beans with her.  It is still one of my favorite things to do.  Her basement was a canning kitchen, filled with jars of finished products and cabinets full of spices where she could do her canning and keep a little cooler.  It was a great place to explore.

When I wanted to learn how to can, she sat down and wrote out my grandmother's bread and butter pickle recipe for me and her instructions for making tomato juice.  She sent us home to make our first quarts of juice with the loan of her ricer (which you may know as a food mill).

The recipe below is Esther's, and you will notice that it is dead simple.  Like the bread and butter pickle recipe, it was intended for open kettle canning, in which the hot juice is put into a hot jar and allowed to seal without further processing.  I've added the processing times to comply with current thoughts on canning.  I've also added the lemon juice; modern hybrid tomatoes are bred to be less acidic than traditional heirlooms, so this small bit of lemon juice keeps you on the safe side of acidity.

Further note:  the picture above is not the best, but I wanted new canners to see the way the tomato pulp sediment separates out from the liquid when the jar has been standing for a while.  This is normal.  It is easy to freak out a little when you see this the first time you put up tomato juice, because we are all so accustomed to the overly-processed stuff we get in the store or a restaurant.  Just shake the jar up before you drink.

Esther Simpson's Tomato Juice
Tomatoes (Seriously, just whatever you have -- the amount of juice depends a great deal on the size variety of tomatoes you've harvested.  Try to have at least 5 pounds or so to be sure you will get a quart.)
Lemon juice

Cut out cores, stem ends, green places, and bad spots.  Cut into quarters and place in a large pot. Use your hands to squeeze the tomatoes to make juice.

Let the tomatoes come to a boil, stirring throughout.  Let boil at least 5 minutes or until peels start to leave the pulp.  Run the pulp through a ricer to remove the seeds and peels, and return the juice to the pot.  Reheat to a full rolling boil.  Can in hot, sterilized jars to which lemon juice (1 t. for quarts, 1/2 t. for pints) and salt (1 t. for quarts, 1/2 t. for pints) has been added.

Process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes (for both quarts and pints).

Note:  If you are not a tomato juice fan but want some wonderful basic sauce, just continue to cook the juice until it boils down into sauce consistency.  Can the same way.

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