Saturday, April 29, 2017

Canning Tomato Paste

When I check out my pantry I like to see what I’m still buying in cans and evaluate if it’s something I could prepare fresh and can.  My shelf of tomato products looks great!  I have canned Spaghetti Sauce with meat, Tomato Sauce, Rotel Styled tomatoes, Diced Tomatoes, Salsa, Bruschetta, Tomato Soup, and  BBQ Sauce. So what could be missing? 

The only thing left on my shelves in a store bought can is tomato paste.  Tomato paste is a thick paste made by cooking tomatoes for several hours to reduce the water content, straining out the seeds and skins, and cooking the liquid again to reduce the base to a thick, rich concentrate. 

Now when I say you cook the tomatoes down, I mean DOWN.  I started with seven pounds of Roma tomatoes which is 112 ounces.  After coring, peeling and seeding I had three quarts of tomatoes or 96 ounces.  By the time I cooked it down in my Instant Pot I was left with only 24 ounces of tomato paste!  The seven pounds of tomatoes was reduced by almost 80%!

Tomato Paste
7 lbs. of tomatoes
3 Red bell peppers diced
2 bay leafs
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil for drizzling
(1/8 tsp Citric Acid add at the end to the top of each 4oz jar)

Be prepared this is time consuming but not labor intensive and most of the time it is hands off cooking time!

Rinse tomatoes thoroughly under running water and remove cores. Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side down on a stainless steel cookie sheet.   Also, wash and remove seeds from your bell peppers and add them in slices to your cookie sheet.  Drizzle the tomatoes and peppers lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of salt.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Skins will be pulling away nicely from the meat of the tomatoes.  For seven pounds of tomatoes this process took two batches in the oven, that’s why I split the salt in half.

Run the warm roasted tomatoes and bell peppers through a tomato press separating the skins and seeds from the tomatoes and peppers.  If you don’t have a tomato press you can use a fine sieve (or food mill with fine blade). (Do not use a blender or food processor, as these will incorporate undesired air into the tomatoes.)  With my tomato press I can run the ejected peels and seed mixture through twice to yield the maximum amount of juicy tomato goodness.

Next begin cooking the mixture down slowly on medium heat, uncovered adding the garlic clove and bay leaves.  Continue cooking until thick enough to round up on a spoon and volume is reduced again by half, about 2-½ to 3 hours.  Stir about every 20 to prevent sticking and burning, stir more frequently as the mixture gets closer to the desired paste consistency.  I cooked mine down in my Instant Pot on Manual – Low.  You can use a lid to reduce splattering but put it on askew so that steam can escape.

When the tomato paste is cooked down remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Fill hot paste into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.  Add the citric acid to the top of each jar. Wipe jar rims with vinegar. Adjust lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath (212° F). Half-Pints 45 minutes.  Yes, 45 minutes, the University of Georgia Ag extension is the only site where I could find documented guidelines and canning times for tomato paste and they said 45 minutes.  

Now was 4+ hour worth it? Really, only yielding six 4oz jars out of 7 pounds of tomatoes?  In my opinion it tastes incredible compared to the canned version.  For price comparison, let’s look at a tube of tomato paste and not the tin can variety.  Target’s store brand tomato paste is $3.28 per 4oz tube would cost $19.68.  Compare that to my seven pound of tomatoes were $0.51 per pound, costing me a total of $3.57!  Yes it was work, but I enjoy it.  The tomato paste tastes great and it will be handy to thicken soups and sauces when needed.  

Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.  Genesis 41:36

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