Are you overrun with fresh tomatoes? There's no need to let them go to waste. Instead, turn them into homemade tomato juice that can be frozen or canned. You'll then be all set when soup season arrives, or whenever you want a tomato-based drink, like a bloody Mary.
Tomatoes are the main ingredient in tomato juice, and that's all you need for a basic juice. However, you'll find that it has a better taste, if you season it with a little salt and black pepper. Other spices can be added as well. Consider adding a little paprika, onion powder, celery salt, or anything in your spice rack that seems like a good fit.
If you want to make it a little spicy, cayenne, chili powder or a few drops of hot sauce will do the trick, but go easy. You can always add more spice later, when you're actually going to use the juice.
The old-fashioned way to juice tomatoes eliminates the need for a juicer. It's a relatively simple process, and in the end, you'll have jars of perfectly preserved tomato juice.
Begin by washing your tomatoes. Then, remove the core, blossom ends, and any damaged spots. Cut the clean tomatoes into quarters, and place them in a saucepan. Turn on the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until they're tender.
Press the tomatoes through a food mill, strainer or sieve to separate the juice from the chunks of fruit. Return the resulting juice to the stove, and add any seasonings you like to suit your taste. Then, bring the juice to a boil to marry the flavors. Just don't cook the juice for too long. Spices can't take too much heat.
Canning Your Tomato Juice
If you want to can your tomato juice, you'll need to add lemon juice to increase the acidity. Most modern tomato varieties aren't acidic enough on their own. Here's how much lemon juice you need to add per quart of tomato juice.
To can your juice, start by sterilizing the jars. Then, pour the juice into the jars, while they're still hot. Be sure to leave a quarter inch of headspace for expansion. Wipe the tops and threads of the jars clean, and seal them with the lids. Then, place the jars in a water bath canner. Process pint jars for 10 minutes and quart jars for 15 minutes. Only full jars should be canned. If you have a bit left over, put it in the fridge for immediate use, or freeze it for later.
Once the processing time is up, remove the jars from the canner, and allow them to cool on the counter overnight. Check the jars for a good seal in the morning, and reprocess any that aren't sealed well.
Freezing Your Tomato Juice
If you don't want to go through all the work of canning your tomato juice, you can also freeze it. Once the juice has cooled, simply pour it into freezer-safe containers. Be sure to leave at least one inch of headspace at the top of the jars because the juice will expand as it freezes. Label the containers, and store them in the freezer. The tomato juice should keep well for up to one year.
If you want to have smaller servings available, freeze some of your juice in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are completely frozen, transfer them into a freezer-safe plastic bag, and store it in the freezer. This will allow you to remove only the cubes you need, so you don't have to go through the work and hassle of thawing a whole container. You may also find that the bag is easier to store, if you have limited freezer space.
If you're short on time, there are alternatives to this juicing method. A good juicer that can handle multiple types of fruits can be used. Be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions because some models are not designed for certain fruits and vegetables. Bare in mind, you'll still need to prepare the tomatoes by removing the core.
No juicer? There are a number of tomato juice substitutes that may work just as well in your recipe. Simple things like tomato paste or sauce are easy options. You can also use your blender or food processor to create a puree that the juice can be pressed out of in a similar fashion to the method used above.