Homesteading

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe • The Prairie Homestead

Harvest season is right around the corner, and if you’re like me, you are often blessed with what seems like a mountain of tomatoes.

Every year, I try to think of clever ways to both use and preserve my tomato harvest. There are so many ways you can use and preserve tomatoes (trust me, I know, especially after gathering these 40 + ways to preserve tomatoes).

Almost everyone that processes tomatoes choose to go with a good tomato sauce. I even have my own go-to Fast Tomato Sauce Recipe for quick fixes and a more classic canning sauce when I have a bit more time. 

But what if you could get that great tomato flavor in a different form and use less storage space? The answer is a simple one, Tomato Paste. Homemade tomato paste is a great way to use excess tomatoes when you have more sauce than you can handle.

Below, I’ll explain a few different ways to make tomato paste and also a few different ways to preserve tomato paste (because I love having options, and I know you do, too!).

How to Make Tomato Paste
So many tomatoes…

What is Homemade Tomato Paste & Why Use It?

What is Tomato Paste?

Tomato paste is concentrated tomatoes. The tomatoes are cooked, the seeds and skins are strained out, and then it is all cooked down for a few more hours. You have tomato paste when your tomatoes are cooked down enough to leave you with a bright red, thick paste.

Why Should You Use Homemade Tomato Paste?

A good homemade tomato paste can be used to add a great amount of extra flavor and thicken an endless number of different recipes (I especially love adding it to my spaghetti sauces and pizza sauces). This bright red paste has a very strong fresh tomato flavor and, in the case of homemade tomato paste, a small amount will go a long way. Not only is the flavor great, but tomato paste is also a great way to take all those extra tomatoes off your counter and store them using minimal space.

What Makes Tomato Paste Different from Tomato Puree?

Tomato puree and tomato paste are cooked tomatoes, the difference between the two is how they are finished. Tomato puree is made by cooking your tomatoes, straining the seeds, and pureeing what is left into a sauce-like consistency. Tomato paste is when the tomatoes are cooked for hours until almost all of the liquid is gone to create your thick paste texture.

The Best Tomatoes to Use for Homemade Tomato Paste

Classic plum-sized tomatoes are usually your best bet if your heart is set on homemade tomato paste. When you are making tomato paste, you will want to avoid types of tomatoes that contain lots of seeds and juice. Most of the seeds are strained out and then the tomatoes are cooked for hours to create your paste. The less liquid your tomatoes contain means the less time you will need to cook them.

There are many different types of tomatoes that can be made into paste, but there are a few common ones that can be found just about anywhere. (Want to know where to find the best tomato seeds for growing your own paste tomatoes? I LOVE True Leaf Market for their heirloom options!)

3 Common Paste Making Tomatoes:

Amish Paste

Just as the name suggests Amish Paste tomatoes are a great commonly known heirloom that can be used for making a paste. The Amish Paste tomato is a plum tomato that has barely any seeds and a strong flavor. These tomatoes are great for making your homemade tomato paste, but they can also be a versatile tomato. This type of tomato is great to puree for making sauce, quartered for salads, and slicing for sandwiches as well.

Roma

Roma tomatoes are probably the most common plum tomato that can be found at local grocery stores. It is a plant that produces large quantities of tomatoes, making it ideal for large-batch processing. This type of tomato has thick, meaty walls with not a lot of seeds or juice. These characteristics and the fact that they are easily found make Roma Tomatoes one of the most popular paste tomatoes.

San Marzano

The San Marzano is an heirloom tomato that has been increasing in popularity, due to its sweeter less acidic taste. This Italian tomato has a thinner pointier appearance compared to other plum-type tomatoes. Like the other paste tomatoes, the San Marzano has more meat, fewer seeds, and hardly any juice. The quality of these tomatoes may make them more expensive and harder to find.

All of these tomato varieties can easily be started from seed and transplanted into your home garden. If you aren’t sure where to start, let me help by explaining how I start my seeds here on the homestead. You can also get your tomato seeds from True Leaf Market and check out my article with helpful expert hints on growing tomatoes.

No matter what type of tomato you choose, the tomatoes that you harvest or buy should be fresh and blemish-free. You want your tomato paste to be made from ripe beautifully colored tomatoes.

Homemade Tomato Paste

Ways To Make Homemade Tomato Paste

Homemade tomato paste can be made using different methods of cooking. You can make it in your oven, on your stovetop, a combination of both stovetop and oven, or in a crockpot (and scroll even farther down for some tips on how to make tomato paste from leftover tomato skins!).

Each one of these methods is used to reduce the amount of liquid to create your paste. NOTE: None of these methods are hands-off and will need to be watched closely to prevent burning.

Oven Method

Making tomato paste using your oven is probably the easiest method and the one that is less likely to burn your tomatoes while they are turning into a paste. After your tomatoes are prepped, you will pour the pulp onto a high-sided sheet pan and bake for 3-4 hours at 300 degrees. Don’t forget to stir every 30 minutes; this is how you will prevent burnt tomatoes.

Stovetop Method

To begin with this method, you will want to bring your tomato pulp to a constant slow simmer. Reducing your pulp to the right paste consistency on the stove can take several hours. This method of making tomato paste will require your undivided attention. The simmering tomato pulp will need to be checked and stirred about every 15 minutes.

Combination Stove Top & Oven Method

Using the stovetop and oven together works well when you have tomatoes with a lot of juice. For this method, you start by simmering your pulp on the stove until it has been reduced to about 1/3. For the second half of the process, you will pour your reduced tomato pulp onto a sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees until it’s a deep red paste.

Crockpot Method

The crockpot method is similar to the stovetop method because you will want to use a low slow heat to reduce the amount of juice. In order to achieve this with a crockpot, you will need to leave the lid off and start at the lowest heat setting. As your pulp starts to thicken and the juice has been visibly reduced, you then change the temperature to the ‘keep-warm’ setting until it is finished.

No matter which method you decide to try, when making your homemade tomato paste the most important thing to remember is NEVER FORGET TO STIR!

Homemade Tomato Paste

Tomato paste can be cooked using different methods but the ingredients, tomato prep, and end result should all be the same.

Tomato Paste Ingredients & Equipment

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Tomatoes (preferably plum-type tomatoes)
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (NOTE: if canning, you must omit the olive oil. See canning instructions below for a special canning recipe)
  • 1 tsp Fine Sea Salt (I use Redmond’s fine sea salt)

Equipment:

  • Food Mill (I love this food mill), Tomato Press or Mesh Strainer
  • Large Pot 
  • Large High-Sided Sheet Pan (if using the oven method)
  • Crockpot (if using the crockpot method)

How to Make Homemade Tomato Paste

  1. Wash and check your tomatoes. Only ripe, non-blemished tomatoes should be used. NOTE: If you are using a tomato press, steps 2-5 can be skipped over.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters (if extra juicy, you can remove seeds and membrane now)
  3. Combine tomatoes, salt, and olive oil in a large pot then bring it to a boil. NOTE: if canning your tomato paste, you must follow a different recipe that does not include oil. See canning instructions below for a revised recipe.
  4. Let it simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the skin is peeling, this should take about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Ladle your tomato and oil mixture into a food mill or fine-mesh strainer/sieve over a large bowl.
  6. Process your tomatoes into a pulp. If you are using a fine-mesh strainer/sieve, use a soft spatula to push the meat of the tomatoes through the mesh.
  7. Cook down your tomato pulp for 2-4 hours (time will depend on paste texture desired) using the method of your choice and be sure to stir often.
  8. When you are finished, your tomato pulp should have transformed into a flavorful deep red paste.

BONUS: Leftover Tomato Skin Powder (to make into Tomato Paste)

When you use a tomato press, food mill, or even a fine-mesh sieve to create tomato pulp, the skins and seeds are always left behind. I often wondered: what if I could use those excess skins for something other than a tasty treat for my chickens….well, I am pretty darn pleased to tell you: there is another use for those leftover bits of tomato skin, and it is super simple to make.

Tomato skins can be dehydrated, ground down, and used in powder form or mixed with water to create more tomato paste!

Tomato Skin Powder Instructions:

  1. Dry your leftover tomato skins at 135 degrees or low setting in an oven or dehydrator until completely dry.
  2. Grind Away! Use a coffee/spice grinder, food processor, or a good old-fashioned mortar and pestle (if you have the patience and stamina). Grind the dehydrated tomato skins until you are left with a bright-red and super-fine powder.
  3. Store your tomato powder in an airtight container (I prefer a glass mason jar). You can use your tomato powder as-is or mix equal parts powder and water (Ex: 1 tsp powder to 1 tsp water) to create tomato paste.  

Storing Your Homemade Tomato Paste

As I mentioned earlier, a little tomato paste can go a long way, and even if you plan on using some right away, you will have plenty to tuck away for later. Tomato paste can be stored in the refrigerator, freezer, or even canned using a hot water bath (learn how to water bath can here). And if you make the tomato skin powder, you can simply store that powder in a glass jar in your pantry and make it into tomato paste when it is needed for recipes.

#1) Storing with Refrigeration

Once you have completed your paste, it will need to cool to room temperature, and then be transferred to an airtight container. Your paste will stay good for a few months when refrigerated; some people will add a small dab of olive oil to the top to prevent drying out. This type of short-term storage is best for small batches that will be used quickly.

Homemade Tomato Paste

#2) Storing in the Freezer

One of the best ways to store tomato paste is in the freezer. This form of storage allows you to use what you need when it is convenient. You can fill ice cube trays and then pop one or two out when your recipe calls for tomato paste. A more measured way to freeze tomato paste is to measure out tablespoon-sized mounds on a baking sheet and freeze them until needed.

#3) Storing through Canning

Tomato paste can be preserved by using a hot water bath canner but is usually used for larger batches. It will take quite a few tomatoes to make enough tomato paste to make it worth canning the tomato paste, but I will leave that up to you. You will need to follow a slightly different recipe for canning tomato paste, because the ratio of olive oil to tomatoes in the recipe above isn’t following the current safe canning rules from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (source). 

Canning Safety is no joke so if you are a little uneasy about canning, please read The Ultimate Guide to Canning Safety.

If you wish to can your extra tomato paste, you will need to add citric acid or bottled lemon juice to your finished paste. You can read more about WHY you must add citric acid or lemon juice to your canned tomatoes in my article about How to Can Tomatoes Safely. Additional canning equipment will also be needed to process your tomato paste.

Canning Tomato Paste Ingredients:

  • 14 pounds tomatoes (preferably paste tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Redmond’s fine sea salt)
  • 2 bay leaves (optional for boost of flavor)
  • Citric acid or lemon juice (see canning instructions below)

Making the Tomato Paste Instructions:

  1. Wash and check your tomatoes. Only ripe, non-blemished tomatoes should be used. NOTE: If you are using a tomato press, steps 2-5 can be skipped over.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters (if extra juicy, you can remove seeds and membrane now)
  3. Combine tomatoes and salt in a large pot, then bring it to a boil. 
  4. Let it simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the skin is peeling, this should take about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Ladle your tomato mixture into a food mill or fine-mesh strainer/sieve over a large bowl.
  6. Process your tomatoes into a pulp. If you are using a fine-mesh strainer/sieve, use a soft spatula to push the meat of the tomatoes through the mesh.
  7. Cook down your tomato pulp (if using bay leaves for additional flavor, add them at this time) for 2-4 hours (time will depend on paste texture desired) using the method of your choice and be sure to stir often.
  8. When you are finished, your tomato pulp should have transformed into a flavorful deep red paste. If using bay leaves for a boost of flavor, make sure you remove them at this time.
  9. Follow the canning instructions below.

Basic Hot Water Bath Canning Tomato Paste Process

Canning Supplies:

  • Water Bath Canner
  • 1/2 Half-Pint Jars
  • Canning Equipment 

Canning Instructions:

  1. Sterilize your jars and lids (yield: approx. 8 or 9 half-pint jars)
  2. Add either 1.5 tsp. lemon juice or 1/4 tsp. citric acid to each jar
  3. Ladle hot tomato paste into warm jars, leaving a ½ inch of headspace
  4. Remove air bubbles
  5. Wipe down jar tops
  6. Place the lids on and secure the rings
  7. Place the filled jars on the canning rack
  8. Submerge rack into your water bath canner with jars covered with at least 1 inch of water
  9. Process jars for 45 min in boiling water bath
  10. Remove the jars, place them on the counter and listen for the pop!

The Resource I Wish I Had When I Started Canning

If you are a canning newbie, I just revamped my Canning Made Easy course and it’s ready for YOU! I’ll walk you through each step of the process (safety is my #1 priority!), so you can finally learn to can confidently, without the stress. CLICK HERE to have a look at the course and ALL the bonuses that come with it.

This is the information I wish I had when I first started canning– all of the recipes and safety information are double and triple-checked against tested and proved canning recipes and recommendations.

It’s the next best thing to you coming over to my house and canning right along with me.

Time to Start Using Those Extra Tomatoes!

Tomato paste is an awesome way to use those extra tomatoes and add a bit of flavor to your recipes like my Homemade Maple BBQ Sauce Recipe or Homemade Fermented Ketchup Recipe.

If you find that tomato paste isn’t to your liking you can always try my Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Recipe or try freezing your tomatoes for later use.  What are some ways you use your tomato harvest?

More Preservation Tips:

 

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

 

Source

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