Grilling and preserving pair perfectly, and their advantages stretch far beyond flavor. Get grilled tomato recipes at
You’ve probably noticed that I love grilled vegetables. I also love home-canned goods, and the techniques of grilling and preserving pair together perfectly. The advantages of grilling for canning stretch far beyond flavor, particularly for tomatoes.

Grilling combined with freezing makes it easy to start processing vegetables as they ripen throughout the growing season, making preserving seem more like a habit than a chore. During tomato season, we pull the ripest fruit from the vine every few days. That evening, we fire up the grill and cook off a rack or two of tomatoes; the hot halves go straight into a colander set over a large bowl to drain off the juice—usually while we’re enjoying a grilled dinner. Once they’re cool, I pour the separated solids and juice into separate containers, weighing and labeling each before adding them to the freezer.

When the freezer’s full, I have two products ready for processing: solids and juice. Because the juice was drained off, any sauce or salsa doesn’t have to cook for hours to thicken. Because the solids have already been pulled out of the juice, I can quickly apply it to any recipe, from beverage to soup. In just a couple of hours, I can have several canner batches processed for long-term storage. The freezer is ready for the next round of preserving, and the canning shelves are full of delicious fire-roasted flavors.

Grilling and draining tomatoes runs counter to instructions given by the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which tests its canning recipes in laboratories. To compensate for these differences, I heavily researched and meticulously calculated the acidity for safe canning; to double-check my calculations, I test the recipes with a ThermoWorks high-accuracy pH meter. More details are in the Tips & Tricks for the recipe.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 4 main ingredients plus some kitchen staples and fresh spices.
1. Grill the vegetables.
2. Briefly puree and cook them and the seasonings into a sauce.
3. Process, with lemon juice, in a boiling water bath.

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Grilled Tomato Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 7 pints
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Print
18 pounds tomatoes (7-3/4 pounds, or about 3 quarts, when grilled and drained)
18 ounces onion (14 ounces, or about 2 cups, when grilled and chopped)
6 cloves garlic, grilled or roasted (about 3 tablespoons when grilled and minced)
2 tablespoons honey
zest of 4 large lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley
14 tablespoons lemon juice

Grill the tomatoes, onions, and garlic as you would for Grilled Tomato Chipotle Salsa. Drain the tomatoes and measure out 3 quarts of solids. Set aside the juice, as well as any extra solids, for another use (see below).

Add the measured tomato solids to a wide, heavy-bottom stockpot and puree them with an immersion blender. In a food processor or using a sharp knife, coarsely chop the onion and garlic. Add them to the tomatoes, along with the honey, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and ground spices. Puree with the immersion blender to the desired smoothness. Mince the fresh herbs and set them aside.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until it begins to bubble. If too thin, continue cooking the sauce until it thickens to your liking, stirring often to keep it from burning. Stir in the fresh herbs and remove the sauce from the heat.

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a hot pint jar, and then ladle in the hot sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Fill all remaining jars in the same way. Process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes, plus your altitude adjustment. Alternatively, cool and then freeze in 3-cup containers. Makes about 7 pint jars.

Tips & Tricks
  • Years of making this recipe have taught me that grilling gives it the best flavor. My largest stockpot holds a double batch, so I typically double this recipe and process it in two batches. Just make sure the second batch is hot before you put it in the jars.
  • The NCHFP advises against draining tomatoes when canning because it hasn’t tested its recipes for that variation and can’t say whether draining changes tomato acidity; instead, it recommends boiling down the sauce for hours. In contrast, grilling and draining minimizes stovetop time and gives the option for two products from one grilling session (see below). To compensate for this variation, I adjusted the acid in this recipe to surpass that given in NCHFP and U.S. Department of Agriculture recipes and add the acid to each jar to ensure consistent safety. For good measure, I test my recipes with a ThermoWorks high-accuracy pH meter.
  • The lemon juice (acid) is not optional when canning; it ensures the sauce remains food safe on the shelf. If using bottled lemon juice, check the label to make sure it has only been diluted to 5% acidity. But you can also use the juice from your zested lemons; it has been found that their natural acidity is the necessary 5%.
  • Although you need some type of acid, it doesn’t have to be lemon juice. I prefer its flavor in this sauce, but you can substitute twice the amount of a vinegar with at least 5% acidity, such as red wine vinegar, for the same effect.
  • The lemon juice can be added to the top or bottom of the jar; it will mix into the sauce as it heats in the canning kettle. I find it easier to measure the headspace if I add it first—and to tell whether I remembered to add it to the jar. If you finish filling a jar and can’t recall whether you added the lemon juice, just put it on top; it won’t hurt the sauce to have extra lemon juice, but jars without it should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten quickly.
  • This sauce may seem simple, but that’s what makes it safe for water-bath processing. So don’t be tempted to throw in additional ingredients before canning; add any other vegetables, meats, and flavors when you open the jar. Or keep it simple and use the jar as canned; it’s perfect for lasagna, as well as sourdough pizza and calzones.

Grilling and preserving pair perfectly, and their advantages stretch far beyond flavor. Get grilled tomato recipes at

Twice as Tasty

Grilling and preserving pair perfectly, and their advantages stretch far beyond flavor. Get grilled tomato recipes at I first started grilling tomatoes for salsas and sauces, I couldn’t get enough Bloody Mary mix on the shelves to last us the year. We still drink a fair amount of it—with or without alcohol—but our wintertime tastes have expanded to warmer beverages and our spring and summer cocktails now tend to feature shrubs. So I no longer feel I need to hoard every drop of grilled tomato juice for a mixer.

This freedom lets me expand my juice use to one of my favorite winter meals: tomato soup. Little compares to a freshly made bowl or cup of this simple classic, but out-of-season tomatoes have so little flavor that most people reach for commercially canned tomatoes if not commercially processed soup. But by grilling and freezing tomatoes in summer, you can quickly enjoy amazing tomato soup all winter in about the same amount of time it takes to heat the commercial stuff. I experimented with several ratios of tomatoes to solids to come up with my preferred blend.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need tomato juice and a bit of tomato solids, plus some kitchen staples.
1. Cook all ingredients except the tomatoes.
2. Add the tomato and enjoy.

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Tomato Juice Soup

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Print
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves Roasted Garlic
pinch of dried oregano
1 teaspoon curry powder
18 ounces grilled tomato juice reserved from Grilled Tomato Pasta Sauce
6 ounces grilled tomato solids reserved from Grilled Tomato Pasta Sauce

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour, letting it cook for about 30 seconds like a roux, and then stir in the sugar and other seasonings. Slowly stir in tomato juice and solids. Increase the heat to bring the soup to a boil, and then taste, adjusting the seasonings as needed, and serve. Makes about 3 cups, or 2–3 servings.

Tips & Tricks
  • I find it handy to keep combine the grilled tomato juice and solids together in a freezer-proof container. You can also freeze just the tomato juice leftover from any grilled tomato recipe and add chopped fresh tomatoes; just puree the soup with an immersion blender before serving. This works particularly well if you ripened late-season green tomatoes in a box and they didn’t take on their full flavor.
  • If you prefer a creamy tomato soup—or want to stretch it to serve 4 people, you can add 1-1/2 cups of cold milk to the finished soup. Slowly pour the hot soup into the cold milk, stirring constantly, to keep the milk from curdling, and then pour the creamed soup back into the saucepan and heat it to almost a boil just before serving.
  • Other ways to stretch this meal including serving it with a sandwich, such as Gorgeous Grilled Cheese, or a salad, like one with roasted beets. It’s also delicious with a Honey–Chili Buttermilk Biscuit or as a starter before Spinach and Herb Frittata or Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms.

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