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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151 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.

    • 101.1
      D. Thomas says:

      I’ve been canning tomato paste for years as I have limited space for storage. I love it because I can reduce 6 gallons of washed, chopped tomatoes to 8 half pint jars. I wash, chop and freeze the tomatoes as they ripen in gallon ziplocks. When I’m ready to process, I mill them with my Victorio Strainer. I cook them down to sauce consistency on stove top, then pour the sauce onto two cookie sheets and stick them in the oven at 325 for a couple of hours. You’ll have to pull the paste in from the edges of the cookie sheet from time to time to keep it from scorching, but much easier then constantly stirring on the stove top. To each hot, sterilized jar (20 min. at 225 in the oven to sterlilize then set to keep warm until ready) I add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/2 tblspon white Karo and 1/4 tsp. canning salt, then spoon the paste into the jars and process in waterbath canner. I’ve never had a jar go bad and its so concentrated that you can add water to it without diminishing the tomato flavor. You cannot taste the Karo or the lemon juice, its a blank tomato product that you can later add herbs etc to for each recipe.

    • 101.2
      Jessica says:

      I have made tomato paste also but froze it in ice cube trays. I blanched and peeled the tomatoes and used the peels for tomato powder after dehydrating them. Then run them through a spice grinder (coffee grinder). And we had that stove too with a brownish color and maybe Eisenhower 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.

  7. 107
    Stacey says:

    My DH has a huge bunch of tomatoes that are going to have to made into something this year and he was telling me that his Puerto Rican father used to make tomato paste in their 5th floor walk up in New York City. He asked me if I knew how. No, but I can learn, right? I came across this site http://leitesculinaria.com/87323/recipes-homemade-tomato-paste-conserva-di-pomodori.html
    and thought I’d give it a try. I know from past experiences that the very acidic taste you get from tomatoes is from the gel that surrounds the seeds and this recipe has you remove this prior to cooking. I saw your site as well and felt bad that your attempts fell so short for you so I thought I’d share. Hope you give this a shot and feel your hard work pays off with this second try.

  8. 108
    Matt says:

    Speaking of Masses of sugar…I tried making tomato jam 2 years ago. I’m not sure if you have tried this? I was a little skeptical when I was told about it but I guess it was once very popular! Well, it turned out really well and even if it is not something you would use alot of it makes a great gift because its bound to get a fair share of “Tomato Jam?” Are you suuuure’s…… Have Fun.

  9. 109
    Steve says:

    Like Stacey, I used the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria procedure modified the steps a bit. I used about 10# of Oregon Spring tomatoes from my garden. Chopped them up in batches in a food processor then ran them through an OXO food mill with the medium disk. This gave me 7 qts of tomato mash that I reduced down to less than 2 qts of something close to a tomato puree. This took about 6 hours. Like Marisa, I started around 3 PM and it was now 11:30 PM. I turned off the heat and went to bed. In the morning I heated the puree, put some in my dehydrator and used the baking sheet method from the recipe. The dehydrator batch got to a paste consistence in about 1/3 the time of the baking sheet batch but the dehydrator batch was a smaller batch. I did not add anything to the tomatoes; not even salt. The taste of both batches was good. First time doing this and what I came away with is that it is a time consuming process to make paste. 10 pounds of tomatoes and a lot of work yielded four 1/2 pints. Four pints!!! I might go for the store bought stuff when this is gone, epoxy Bisphenol A and all. Why don’t the tomato processors switch to glass?

    • 109.1
      Lisa Shenk says:

      I use the recipe from TheItaliandishblog.com. Though I haven’t tried canning it, follow her steps, it is amazing!! I think it could be canned minus the olive oil on the top, and adding a tsp. of lemon juice to half pint jars, (directions on the website pickyourown.org) I could just spread this on toast!!

  10. 110
    Gabrielle says:

    Hi, I came across your lovely blog trying to figure out if I can add a can of tomato paste to my homemade tomato puree before I can it. Since everyone here is talking about making tomato paste and canning it, I think I am OK as long as I add the lemon juice.
    BTW, the relatively fast and easy method I use is: wash the tomatos and put them through my ancient hand-cranked “Squeezo”, which is like a Roma. Put it all in the BIG pot and get it boiling. Then put as much as I can fit in the crock-pot, on High (I think it’s 7 quarts.) leave the lid half off. and let it cook down. If I leave it a couple of hours it cooks down enough to add more from the big pot. By the next morning it is thick! I freeze these batches til I have enough to can.

    • 110.1
      Kathy says:

      I couldn’t live without my “Squeezo”. We bought it over 40 years ago and it’s still going strong. We use it for tomato sauce, (DH makes great speg.sauce) apples, pears, pumpkin and winter squashes (cook and slightly cool first). I use my crock-pot too,(we have 5) for cooking down sauces and making applebutter. We can for ourselves and children’s families, a total of 11 mouths.(they help) In our best year, about 1000 jars inc soup, sauces, jams etc. Processing home grown will help us maintain a budget when I finally get to retire too.

  11. 111
    El says:

    I’m a canning novice but I like to play & learn. This year I had a lot of volunteer Roma tomatoes to deal with. I dehydrated some but new ones kept coming. So I ran a pan-full of tomatoes through my juicer, then put the juice in a sauce pan and slowly cooked it down. It looked so good that I never got around to trying to can; I went ahead and made it into marinara sauce and had many good meals. I’m now wondering, after reading all the informative comments, if what I did might be a good start to making and canning paste? My marina wasn’t bitter at all. And the juicing took seconds and was so easy. So, I thought I’d just share my story in case its of interest and helps, and I welcome any thoughts anyone cares to offer in return. Regards.

  12. 112
    Betty says:

    I’ve made paste, and it is time consuming ….. I’ve found that if I throw the simmered chopped tomatoes, peels, seeds and all, in one of those old-fashioned sieves, the “juice” that first runs off is almost clear. I cook & reduce this watery stuff down, (and this you don’t have to watch quite so closely) then press out the rest of the tomatoes through the sieve with the wooden pestle and add this to the reduced liquid. This seems to reduce the cooking time. Once the puree has been added to the reduced clear juice, you have to almost be stirring constantly — otherwise the bottom will burn. I perch on a stool with a good book, stirring all the while.

  13. 113
    Priscilla says:

    I have been experimenting with using a dehydrator to evaporate my tomatoes. I stir them about every 8 hours. But it seems like a very good way to get the water off and not lose so much of the nutrients or my energy. I will admit to cooking them into a thick sauce consistency before putting them into flat cake pans in the dehydrator. as they cooked more and as my sauce cooked more I added more sauce to the pans. I ended up with a nice red thick paste.

  14. 114
    Dawn Seevers says:

    A crock pot with the lid propped open works amazingly well for cooking down tomatoes. Once my initial cooking was done and I removed the skins and seeds I put my sauce in the crock pot on high and prop the lid open with a wooden spoon. Let this cook overnight and I had an amazing sauce to can without having to keep watch over it. If you let it go longer I’m sure you could get paste consistency.

  15. 115
    Angie says:

    I know it’s a bit late in the year to reply, but I only found this article now….apart from Sydney’s advice, you could also strain away excess liquid before cooking. I have never made tomato paste, will do so next year, but I ALWAYS make tomato sauce from my own garden. I like the sauce rather dense, so I parboil the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, mill them and then stain the lot through cheese cloths. That should shorten your cooking time and diminish the bitterness. I would not add anything else to the tomato paste….that you can do when you use it in the various dishes

  16. 116
    Marianne says:

    I have done all sorts of things with tomatoes as I always have an abundance. My 6 children loved having “Salsa” cookoffs inviting their friends to come be the judges with bowls of chips. We now have a family favorite salsa recipe, adding a new one with zucchini in it, and a favorite Tomato sauce, that we use for lasagna, enchiladas, chicken parmigiana, pizza, chili, and other things, that has green peppers, onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt to taste. I cook it down and take off quarts of juice that we drink or I use for chili or other soup.

    Here is the recipe:
    4 quarts ground tomatoes (about 26 medium)
    1 green pepper
    2 onions
    2 cloves garlic
    Can use zucchini. Run vegetables through food processor and put into pot. Add for each batch:
    2 T. dry parsley
    1/8 t. cayenne pepper
    2 t. dried oregano leaves or 1 t. ground ( I usually use 1 T fresh)
    1 t. allspice
    2 T. brown sugar
    2 t. black pepper
    2 t Italian seasoning.

    Put tomatoes through food processor. If skins aren’t too blemished, they don’t need to be peeled. Cook for 30 minutes and take off about 3 quarts juice. Add 1 can tomato paste to make it smooth, or take off an extra cup of juice, adding 2 T. cornstarch to it, mixing well and put back in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is thick. I have done both thickening methods and they are the same, but I lean to the paste.

    Pour into bottles and seal with new sterilized lids. Process in pressure cooked 15 minutes at 10 lbs (depending on your elevation) Makes about 18 pints of sauce and 3 quarts of delicious juice.

    4 quart ground tomatoes 4-5 not quite ripe tomatoes, chopped
    5 green bell peppers and 5 sweet red peppers
    6-8 onions, chopped
    3-4 green Anaheim chili’s without seeds, chopped fine.

    If you like it hotter, put the hot peppers in the blender after you seed them, if you want more heat, use the seeds.

    Process in blender:
    4 yellow jalapeno or Serrano chilis without seeds and 1 with seeds (according to your like of heat)
    4 green jalapeno chilis without seeds, 1 with seeds.
    2-3 t. salt
    3 cloves garlic
    1/2 c. vinegar
    2 T. brown sugar

    I have used zucchini to give it more texture, and also yellow pear tomatoes, as we like the color and chunkiness. Cook mixture for 2 hours. Can take off 1-2 quarts of juice for thicker salsa, which is delicious in chili. Put into jars and seal. Water bath for 5 minutes Makes 12 pints.

    Hope you try these…they have been our favorite for over 25 years. Our son-in-law from Guatemala adjusts the heat. Tomatillos can be used, and if so, cut down the vinegar.

    Marianne in Idaho

  17. 117
    emma says:

    After cooking I line a colander with cheese cloth and drain a lot of the water off.cuts the cooking time a lot.

  18. 118
    Barbra Kroeker says:

    Do I HAVE to put my jars of spaghetti sauce , pizza sauce , etc into a hot water bath to can them or can I just put the piping hot sauces into jars to seal themselves ?

  19. 119
    Linda says:

    This is the first year I’ve canned tomato paste. I love the fact that fewer jars are used, as well as less pantry space to store it. After putting the tomatoes through my ancient Victorio strainer, I use the oven to condense the sauce down to paste. I use a pyrex 9 x 12 baking dish, with the oven set to about 300 degrees while I am awake and able to stir every once in awhile. During the night, I leave the oven set to just above the “keep warm” stage on my oven controls. This method takes a long time, usually about 24 hours per batch, but I don’t mind. I don’t have to stand at a hot stove and the paste takes a minimum amount of time stirring.

  20. 120
    cat says:

    OK. I did it. Mostly because I’m on a low histamine diet right now and can’t eat the ridiculously small amount of tomatoes that have survived both early and late blight this year in my garden. So, I bought 4 more pounds of roma tomatoes to add to my 1 pound, to make half the recipe. I’m certainly glad I didn’t buy more! I wasn’t able to taste mine, and it would be pointless to even put what I got into a 1/4 pint jar. I have it in the freezer now, spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and, when frozen, I will just divide it in layers between parchment and freeze it. Truly, I could have purchased a LOT of canned tomato paste (which I really don’t even use very much, anyway) for the $10 I paid for organic, locally grown tomatoes.

    But… I have questions… Can one just “fire” roast the tomatoes in the broiler to remove the skins, like when roasting peppers to do the same? Just drizzing the oil over the tomatoes before roasting? Or what about just blitzing everything except the cores in a high powered blender?

    My experience was that the tomato skins really got in the way of removing the seeds with the food mill. I think I could remove the tomato skins in about 15 minutes vs. the 1-1/2 hr. it took to process them in the food mill.

    All in all, it was a learning experience, and $10 and some time is much better than spending $40 for a class or something for the same experience. I just wish I could have asked you my questions while I was working on it. 🙂 And nice to know it’s not just me. 🙂

    • 120.1
      Debbie Spadafora says:

      Look into buying a Victorio Strainer. I use it for tomatoes to make tomato juice, sauce, and seedless salsa. It also has a berry sieve, so can make blackberry jam with all the pulp, but no seeds. Also, you can just steam apples till soft, with no peeling or coring, put through and get perfect applesauce. I have been canning for over 40 years. I couldn’t do as much as I do without this piece of equipment!

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