Description of a typical drinkable tomato juice processing operation made from fresh tomatoes.
Drinkable tomato juice is normally produced during the tomato season, when tomatoes have usually reached their prime; it shall be produced from selected tomato varieties having a solids content not less than 5°Brix. Some producers prefer not to blend different tomato varieties so as to obtain a juice with more homogeneous flavour.
Production technology is basically the same used in the production of tomato paste and/or “passata” (obviously with exclusion of the concentration phase), i.e. washing, sorting, chopping, hot break pre-heating and juice extraction. Special attention has to be paid to the screen meshes of the juice extractor: the standard size is 0.4 mm, while in the U.K. it can even be 0.3 mm.
Tomato juice is normally packed directly into the final container; however, it could also be stored into 20/50 m3 aseptic tanks or into 1000 L aseptic bags and be re-processed later on according to market demand.
Tomato juice can also be obtained from aseptic tomato paste (particularly for northern European countries); in both cases the preparation processes before filling into final containers shall be as follows:
· preparation of the final recipe in a suitable tank by adding all the necessary ingredients: salt, spices, aromas and other ingredients in line with the final market demand; the tanks shall be provided with suitable stirrers in order to assure adequate blending of all ingredients;
· in case of production starting from tomato paste, filtered / dematerialized water shall also be added in order to reach the desired quantity of dry matter, homogenization at 150 / 200 bar shall also be provided but only for juice obtained from tomato paste in order to prevent serum separation. Juice obtained directly from fresh tomatoes does not need homogenization;
· pre-heating at 60°C
· vacuum deaeration;
· pasteurization at 98°C and holding at this temperature for about 120 seconds;
· cooling at 90 – 92°C;
· filling under vacuum at 92°C into cans and/or glass bottles;
· capping / closing of containers;
· holding of full containers at 90°C for about 6 / 8 minutes in a tunnel;
· cooling of full containers at 40°C in a tunnel (40°C shall be measured in the core of the container);
· final packaging and coding.
If filling is being carried out into aseptic type containers such as tetra-bricks or aseptic thermoformed cups or similar, then sterilization / cooling process shall be modified as follows:
· sterilization at 112°C and holding at this temperature for about 120 seconds;
· cooling under aseptic environment at < 40°C;
· filling into final container at < 40°C.