Tomato Process - Whatever the final tomato product the initial phases of Receiving, Washing and Sorting and the final phases of Aseptic Sterilization and Filling process are the same.
Receiving, Washing and Sorting
- Tomatoes are delivered to the plant and transferred to flumes by manual, mechanical or hydraulic means.
- Tomatoes are conveyed through flumes to the washing and sorting area in order to remove field material.
- Manual or electronic systems then further sort the product.
NOTE - Peeling: if the final product is peeled whole or particulates, the next step is:
Lye, steam and/or hot water is used to separate skins from the whole tomato. Scrubbers and/or pinch bed systems finish the peeling process. Usable by-product is often recovered from the non-lye processes for concentrate and/or topping media.
After peeling, tomatoes are sorted again, graded and directed toward final preparation where they either remain whole or are cut in dices. Calcium Chloride is an option used in certain regions to maintain the shape and firmness of cut tomatoes.
The tomatoes now pass to either aseptic filling in bulk or to in-container sterilization (see below).
NOTE - Paste or Concentrate products: if the final product is Paste or Concentrate, the next step is:
This procedure provides even heating that inactivates the natural enzymatic process. The choice of hot or cold break depends on the final product to be obtained.
The juice is refined by removing the peel and seeds from the pulp. This step results in juice ready for concentration.
The highest quality paste is obtained by removing the water while preserving the color and organoleptic properties of fresh tomatoes.
In Container Processing - Filling, Closing and Sterilization
Containers are filled with paste, enter a closing machine where a lid is seamed to the can, then they are conveyed to a cooker where the product is heated to sterilization temperature, held, cooled and made ready for warehousing.
Aseptic Processing - Sterilization and Filling
Quality improves when commercial sterility can be obtained with minimal heat damage. In a closed aseptic system, particulate tomatoes in a carrier media are heated, held at temperature to obtain commercial sterility, and aseptically cooled to ambient temperature.
The sterilized paste is then filled into aseptic bags. 300 gallon/1000 liter bags are filled in a box. 55 gallon/200 liter bags are either filled flat and then placed in a drum, or filled directly inside the drum. Drums or bins are labeled and ready for shipment and/or storage at ambient temperatures.