Here's a few things I've learned and used for making a vegetable juice mixture.
- Use a heavy stock pan about 1/4 larger than the quantity of produce to cook. This helps prevent scorching and boil overs. Tomatoes do both easily at high temperatures.
- If you don't have all day or have trouble lifting heavy pots, make smaller batches more often.
- Have a sturdy long handle spoon.
- Wash fresh produce for canning in a mild dish washing soap. I know it sounds crazy, but, it makes me feel better. A quick in, rub completely, and quick out. Never let celery sit in soapy water, it will take up the water and taste like soap. Rinse VERY thoroughly.
- Never use moldy or spoiled produce. It could ruin the entire batch.
- Skin tomatoes if you aren't going to run through a food mill.
- Use a food mill if you can't eat or don't want seeds. It will remove the seeds, the skin and blend all vegetables. The food mill makes the best juice.
- Never can the skins of tomatoes when preserving - they become tough.
- Different colored tomatoes tint the juice.
- Use the most meaty, sweet and juicy tomatoes for the canning process.
Here's a simple recipe for vegetable juice using the food mill - assuming everything is clean:
Tomatoes with skins, cored and cut into quarters. Cutting tomatoes into quarters helps prevent the fruit from exploding when going through the food mill.
Peel onions, quarter. I believe the more surface - the more flavor.
Optional: Garlic cloves, peeled and slightly squashed.
Summer Squash: Remove stem, chop into golf ball sized pieces. The golf ball size is optimal for fitting into the food mill receptacle.
Carrots: Cut off top and cut into small pieces or grate . Carrots take longer to cook when left large.
Celery: Cut off bottom of bunch, cut into one inch sized pieces; include leaves.
Peppers: I use sweet bell and banana. If I want something with more heat, I add hot peppers at the time I use the canned juice. It gives more options. Core peppers and cut into pieces.
Optional: Hot peppers: Keep in mind the entire batch will be hot. As the juice cooks and after it's preserved, it may increase in heat. If you cook the hot pepper seeds, it will make it much hotter.
Any of the following may be added for more nutrition: Greens such as spinach and lettuce. Fresh beans. Realize if you use cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc., their flavor will over ride most of the other flavors.
Use what's available (either in your garden or at the farmer's market.)
Seasonings: Again I use what I have on hand. Routinely, I use basil (it's flavor diminishes some during canning), rosemary, thyme, parsley. Others if you want a distinctive taste: cilantro, lemon balm, sage, and chives. I'm sure there are others. I don't use a herb, vegetable or flavoring that limits what recipes I can make. Specific flavors can be added at the time you use the juice in your favorite dish. I add fresh ground pepper. I don't add salt at the time of canning.
Fruits: Yes, you can add fruit to your vegetable juice. Some of the brighter colored fruits will impart a subtle taste of their own. The lighter the fruit the less likely that will happen with the exception of citrus. I often make at least one batch of tomato juice by seasoning with lemon juice and zest. It's good in salad dressing, in bean dip and as a drink. Not so good in savory dishes.
Cook ingredients prior to putting in food mill. Follow the canning instructions exactly until you understand the why and why not. Not only do you want a perfect juice, you do not want to give anyone food poisoning. I know - I had to say it.
As for ingredients, the point of vegetable juice is to add as much nutrition as possible. The point of making your own is you are able to control the taste, the looks, the cost, the quantity, the nutrition, and eliminate negative or dangerous practices..
Side note: If you don't want juice, this same recipe can be used for "chunky" tomatoes. Take out the seeds prior to cooking if they bother you. Skin the tomatoes prior to cooking. Cut vegetables into smaller pieces. Don't run through the food mill.
www.ezfromseed.org is the Home Garden Seed Association. They have directions for "Seed Buying 101: A Seed Gardener's Glossary".
http://www.selectseeds.com A site for rare, choice and heirloom seeds.
http://www.reneesgarden.com A site that offers organic seeds.
There are numerous other sites and stores near you. Most have instructions along with their catalog of seeds and plants. Have fun making "the plan"!