We got to talking the other day on the Food News broadcast about tomato juice, and that inspired me to investigate making tomato juice at home. Here is the result - a morning’s work, an adaptation from something like eight or ten different sources - but a wonderful, refreshing treat no matter how you put it together. Obviously, the more flavorful the tomatoes, the more flavorful the juice will be - late summer (and into September, even October) yields the best tomatoes, but the Italian plum tomatoes called for here make this a year-‘round possibility. Of course, the juice can be used in cooking in many ways, and can even be cooked down into a tomato sauce.

MAKES 1 1/2 to 2 QUARTS

7 pounds, very ripe Italian plum tomatoes
1 medium-size onion
2 large carrots
2 celery stalks (include leaves if desired)
1/2 teaspoon, celery seed

Core the tomatoes, and coarsely chop them into cubes (more or less). [COOK’S NOTE: Be sure to cut away any blemishes or “bad” spots, green or white spots, and the tiny blossom end piece. You might even taste each tomato to be sure it is sweet and flavorful.] Peel the onion and chop it into small dice. Finely chop the celery stalks. In a non-reactive pot (about 8 quart size) combine the chopped vegetables with the celery seed and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are very soft.Transfer the mixture in batches (including its liquid) into a food mill (or use a sieve or strainer, if you do not have a food mill) placed over a large bowl. Force the mixture through the mill or sieve to remove the seeds and tomato skins and the larger bits of vegetables. [COOK’S NOTE: The finer the sieve, the finer the pulp of the juice will be, and the less likely it will be to settle and separate.] Stir the juice (taste for seasoning, add salt or even a very small amount of sugar if desired – although the carrots have added sweetness) and transfer it to a large pitcher or lidded jar(s). Chill before serving. Keep refrigerated.
The Tomato Juice may be canned in pint jars: Process the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes; allow to cool, check the seals, and store in the pantry for up to 1 year.Make the juice using the same weight of round red tomatoes (instead of the Italian plum tomatoes) when tomatoes are in flavorful season. Make the juice without any other vegetables, but add salt and/or sugar to taste (either 1 teaspoon of salt per quart, OR 3/4 teaspoon salt mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons, sugar per quart – adjust amounts to taste) and add fresh ground pepper to tasteAdd green pepper to the vegetable combinationAdd bay leaves to the simmering tomato mixtureAdd Worcestershire sauce (about 1 1/2 teaspoons per quart of juice) to the finished juiceAdd prepared horseradish to the finished juiceAdd a dash or two of Tabasco or other hot sauce to the finished juice

Serve the chilled juice in chilled glasses with lemon wedges