Mildred's Tomato-Basil Juice

I know tomatoes aren't in season right now, but my friend, Mildred, passed away a few weeks ago, so I've had this recipe on my mind. File it away until next summer; this is a keeper.

Mildred had been a Master Gardener for years and took the Master Food Preserver course in her eighties. She was famous for bringing her home-canned tomato juice to any potluck occasion.

One of Mildred's tricks was to add a can of tomato paste to the juice. This keeps the pulp from separating out, leaving pulp at the bottom of the jar and clear juice at the top. Mildred's juice looks oh so much prettier sitting on your pantry shelf. This juice is extra-thick so I often use it in place of tomato sauce. In fact, my husband used a quart last week to make some incredibly delicious Spaghetti Bolognese.

Here's the recipe just as Mildred wrote it down (my notes are at the end):

Fill 6 qt. kettle (rounded full) with washed, trimmed and cut up tomatoes. Hand crush enough to have juice in bottom of the kettle to start cooking. Note: I use mainly Roma type tomatoes, with whatever other tomatoes I have on hand.

Cook down until about 2/3 to 3/4 full, then I add fresh washed basil, stems and leaves to fill up the kettle. (Since basil and tomatoes don't always mature at the same time, I wash the basil, fill gallon ziploc bags and freeze. The washed basil weighs about 4 oz. after bagging.) Then I take one out of the freezer to add to tomatoes. Cook for about 15
minutes more to mix the flavors and basil is soft.

Run through reamer or food ricer to remove skins, pulp and basil leaves and stems. Very little basil goes through the holes, other than the flavor.

When all juice has been extracted, I add one 12 oz. can tomato paste, stirring well. This improves the color and keeps juice from separating.

Fill pint or quart jars leaving head space to which I add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and generous tablespoon bottled lemon juice to pints and double that amount for quarts. Wipe tops of jars. Put on lids and process in water bath according to chart.

This is good with dash of lemon or lime juice, if you prefer.

Jennifer's notes: Leave 1/2-inch headspace in the jars. Use only bottled lemon juice, not fresh. Powdered citric acid may be substituted for lemon juice in the following amounts: 1/4 teaspoon per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart. Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath.

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