Homemade Tomato Paste

12 quart pints of tomato paste

Three weeks ago, I bought my annual batch of tomatoes to preserve. 100 pounds worth. I canned them whole, I canned them crushed, I slow roasted and froze them and I made 17 pints of corn and tomato salsa (keep your eyes peeled for a comprehensive tomato preservation post coming soon). And still, there were tomatoes.

9 quarts of chopped tomatoes

So I tackled a project that had always intrigued me. I made tomato paste. I chopped, simmered, milled, simmered, pureed, reduced and canned 12 quarter pint jars of tomato paste.

cooking down tomatoes

I followed the recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website nearly to the letter. The only omission I made was to skip the garlic clove. I’ve been so conditioned to avoid adding low acid foods to tomatoes that it just didn’t seem right, particularly since this recipe is not acidified (from what I understand, when you cook down the tomatoes to this extreme, you concentrate the existing acid to such a degree that it’s not necessary to add any more).

more food milling

I started with approximately 16 pounds of chopped tomatoes at 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon. After an hour of simmering with three cubed red peppers, a bay leaf and a generous pinch of salt, I ran them through my food mill (a brand new purchase, made by Kutchenprofi. The little legs snapped off the minute I started to use it, making it necessary to hold the mill in the air while pressing the tomatoes through. It was frustrating).

overwhelmed stove

Once the tomatoes were milled, they went back into the pot and spent the next six hours cooking down. It was after midnight by the time they were ready for the jars. If I ever make tomato paste again, I will start much earlier than 3 pm. (As an aside, I don’t think my little apartment stove was designed for this kind of use. With two canning projects going that night, it was utterly overwhelmed.)

filling tomato paste

Even after six hours of cooking, I think my tomato paste might have been able to reduce further. However, I was out of patience and ready for bed so it went into the jars. The NCHFP recommends using half pints to can tomato paste, but I opted for quarter pints because I rarely use more than a tablespoon or two when cooking. However, as is best practice, I did not reduce the processing time for my smaller jars. They still spent the full 45 minutes in the canner.

scraping pot

Canning can be a lot of work. I am aware of this and happily do that work when I take on a new project, knowing that nearly all of the time, my end result will be so much better and more satisfying than anything I could buy at the store. However, after tasting my tomato paste, I was disappointed. My paste, which was made from perfectly delightful plum tomatoes, tasted bitter and flat. For the first time in my canning life, I had to confront the truth that the store bought version was better than what I had made.

finished tomato paste

What’s more, while my tomatoes were fairly inexpensive (I paid $40 for 100 pounds this year), this batch of 3 pints of tomato paste still cost approximately $7 in raw materials and 10 hours of time (that doesn’t include the cost of the jars that the paste is currently occupying). I’m not sure if the investment works out this time around.

I am not suggesting that you guys shouldn’t make tomato paste. I’m sure the fact that my preparations went later than expected and that my food mill started falling to pieces didn’t help me to feel happy and rosy about this recipe. But I think next year, I’ll stick to tomato preservation projects that offer more return on investment (like crushed tomatoes) in less time. This one just didn’t float my boat.

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122 Responses to Homemade Tomato Paste

  1. 101
    Sydney says:

    It looks like you initially left the skins on the tomatoes, and you also mention adding some cut up red pepper (sweet bell, I am guessing). Tomato skin will turn bitter, and I have found that peppers can be quite bitter with extended cooking. Salt and a bit of acid might help. I also think it is really difficult to predict outcomes when we are buying produce, no matter how good it is. Different varieties, different times of year, amounts of rainfall, or soil composition can have such an impact on flavor. 10 perfectly wonderful tomatoes may also be very different, and the the same variety you got last year, from the same farmer, might vary enough this year to be distinctly noticeable in a recipe with such concentration of flavor. Still, it’s always good to try and maybe try again!
    PS. We had that same stove when I was growing up, minus the powder blue finish. I think Nixon was president.

  2. 102
    babs says:

    Hi I think th store bought stuff has masses of sugar and salt in it..so we are used to the tom.paste being sweet.
    The seeds and skins can cause the pste to be bitter if the toms are cooked at all prior to removing.
    I found that freezing hte toms first then milling, a. you can pick the skins off easily whenthe thaw, and they go through the mill really easily. I freeze my toms in 3 kg lots till I hav eenough to use for sauce etc.
    I grow my own toms.
    I have been put off the paste myself because of the bitter taste, think it was over cooked, prob boiled it instead of slowly letting it reduce.
    I’ll try again.

  3. 103
    kim says:

    hey I think the recipe for this is no longer on the National Center For Home Preserving .Just thought I would let you know .

  4. 104
    Jennifer Gibson says:

    I realize this is an old post, but I just came across it and am excited to see it. I’ve always wondered about canning my own tomato paste. I always can all of my tomatoes but end up having to buy tomato paste for spaghetti sauce and such. My tomatoes come from my back yard, so I won’t be losing as much cost-wise. It’s worth a shot! Thanks for the post.

  5. 105
    Robin D. says:

    Dehydrate them and put them in a blender to powder them, and use that when you need paste. You can add as much as you need.

  6. 106
    Penny Hawk says:

    I have also made tomato leather. After cooking the tomatoes down a bit I put them on a teflex? sheet that I have sprayed with an oil spray. The last step is important because you may be chipping those pieces off of the teflex sheet. Dry until they are dry throughout but still pliable. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a jar or ziploc bag. Break off pieces as you need them. I have also made tomato powder to use.

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