Tomatoes are very popular in so many people’s diets. Whether eaten raw, chopped up as a salad or simmered for hours, tomatoes are loved worldwide and remain among the most popular vegetables today. So, how are tomatoes processed?
Because of this popularity, there are many different ways to process tomatoes at home or at an industrial level and make them ready for consumption.
The tomato processing industry is not just about the production of canned tomatoes; it also involves the transformation of fresh tomatoes into products such as purees, juices, sauces, ketchup, and even powders.
Tomato Processing As a Business
There several main types of tomato processing methods, each with pros and cons. However, before you dive into learning all there is to know about tomato processing, let’s look at what it entails.
Growing tomatoes is easy. But things get a little trickier when you’re trying to build a business around them. How exactly do you process and market them to your target audience?
Fortunately, businesses worldwide specialize in helping growers like you get your products from the field to the consumer without much fuss.
They can consult you on all questions about how are tomatoes processed.
These companies almost always offer services for particular segments of the tomato-growing farmers, like processing facilities for the framers who want to sell their products as whole tomatoes, juices, or other tomato products.
Here’s a short overview of how are tomatoes processed and what you need to know about tomato processing to start your own production and distribution.
What Exactly Is Tomato Processing?
In simple words, tomato processing is the transformation of fresh tomatoes into a product ready for storage and consumption.
As mentioned before, tomato processing is not just about the production of canned tomatoes; it also involves the transformation of fresh tomatoes into products such as purees, juices, sauces, ketchup, and even powders.
If you look at the tomato processing industry, the picture will be pretty different from what most people expect.
You may imagine it is just about using giant machines to process tomatoes into cans. In reality, there is much more to it. There are different types of tomato processing methods, each with pros and cons.
So, let’s look at what is involved in transforming fresh tomatoes into products ready for storage and consumption.
How Are Tomatoes Processed By Drying/Dehydration?
One of the most straightforward options for tomato processing is to remove the water content from the tomatoes. This is done either by sun drying or using specialized dehydrators.
With both of these methods, the tomatoes are dried out in the sun or dehydrators until their water content is reduced to about 10%. There are various reasons why this is done, but the two most important ones are to prevent rotting and maintain the nutritional content of the tomatoes.
You can use dehydrated tomatoes as:
- final product ready for eating;
- can them in oil;
- make dried tomato powder;
The dehydrated tomatoes are ground into a fine powder. Then the powder can be mixed with other ingredients such as salt, artificial sweeteners, etc. Finally, it is packed into cans or plastic pouches, ready to be consumed.
Tomato Juice Processing
How are tomatoes processed for juice extraction? This is one of the simplest tomato processing methods, yet it is one of the most effective.
The tomatoes are chopped up and then put in a juicer. The juicer extracts all the juice from the tomatoes, which is then placed in a container for storage. You can further process the tomato pomace to make it into a puree.
The main advantage of this method is that you get fresh tomato juice rich in flavor and can also use pomace for other products.
If you do it manually, the disadvantage is that you will have to go through the work of chopping up the tomatoes and putting them through the juicer each time you want to make fresh juice.
Tomato Juice Canning In Hot Water Bath
If you are making tomato juice at home, you need to do a “homemade” pasteurization.
Heat the water to boiling, fill your jars with tomato juice, and put them in the water bath. The jars will need to be in the water for at least 10 minutes, but you can let them stay there for as long as an hour.
Then remove the jars and let them cool on a rack or in any other cool place. When the tomato juice jars are cool enough to handle, put the lids on them and store them in a cool place without a direct sunlight for at least a week before opening them and using the tomato juice.
You can also heat the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a low-temperature oven (about 200 degrees) for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Stored in a cool place, unopened tomato juice will last approximately 12 months. Opened jars will last about 3– 4 months.
Industrial Tomato Juice Processing
Industrial tomato juice processing involves the following steps:
- filling into bottles or tetra-pack
As you see, tomato juice is also pasteurized during the process to make it safe to drink.
Industrial tomato juicers are heavy-duty machines that are built to withstand constant use. They are made of stainless steel to prevent rust and have a self-cleaning function.
Industrial tomato juicers are usually installed in factories and used by food processing companies. Industrial tomato processing machines are large pieces of equipment that can process tons or even hundreds of tons of tomatoes daily.
Industrial tomato juicers follow the same steps for processing tomatoes into juice, as mentioned before.
First, tomatoes are unloaded from a truck or rail car and placed on a conveyor belt. Next, the tomatoes are cleaned with water to remove dirt and debris.
Then, the tomatoes are inspected to make sure they meet quality standards. Finally, the tomatoes are cut and placed into a juice press to make the tomato juice.
How Are Tomatoes Processed By Canning
This is a very popular tomato processing method. It involves using a special canning machine that seals the tomatoes in cans. Once the cans are closed, they are put through a pasteurization process, which heats them to a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.
The high temperature kills all the microorganisms in the tomatoes and makes them safe to eat for an extended period after canning.
The most significant advantage of the canning method is precisely the same – it preserves the tomatoes for an extended period of time.
However, the downside is that it damages the nutritional content present in the tomatoes. Moreover, the taste of canned tomatoes is something many people sometimes complain about.
Blanching is a widespread tomato processing method. If the tomatoes are very large, you can cut them into smaller pieces and put into a large pot filled with water.
They are then boiled in the water for about a minute before being taken out and put in a large colander. Blanching is a process that helps you to remove the skin from the tomatoes.
It also helps in removing the excess pectin from the tomatoes. The excess pectin makes it challenging to process the tomatoes. Hence, blanching helps in removing it.
Blanching is a standard method used throughout the tomato processing industry. However, it has been criticized sometimes by saying that the process damages the nutritional content of tomatoes.
Another standard tomato processing method. The tomatoes are put in a large machine that heats them to a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.
The high temperature kills all the microorganisms in the tomatoes and makes them safe to eat. The machine then automatically turns off, and the tomatoes are removed.
The main advantage of this method is that it does not affect the nutritional content of the tomatoes. Moreover, the taste of the tomatoes remains the same.
However, this method is not used for canning tomatoes. It is only used for other products such as tomato juices, soups, ketchup, and sauces.
When it comes to tomato processing, there are many different methods to choose from. The best tomato processing method will depend on the type of product you want to produce. One thing that is for sure is that all processing methods have their pros and cons.
You will have to choose the best tomato processing method depending on the type of product you want to create.