Tomatoes

Grilling and preserving pair perfectly, and their advantages stretch far beyond flavor. Get grilled tomato recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
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.
Learn to make Grilled Tomato Pasta Sauce and Tomato Juice Soup

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Classic Zucchini

My mom tried every way she could think of to feed us zucchini. I still rely on her classic and newer recipes. Get zucchini recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
As I was growing up, my mom tried every way she could think of to feed us zucchini. My dad always planted several hills, plus a couple extra in case one failed, and Mom found endless ways to sneak it into dishes once the crop started coming in. Chocolate zucchini cake was her favorite way to disguise the squash: the texture gave it away, but that didn’t stop us from reaching for a slice. She also processed it as pickles, relish, and even salsa.

My favorite way to save zucchini today is grated and frozen for pancakes and quick bread. But if you’re short on freezer space, pickled zucchini becomes far more attractive. The year before I was born, my great-aunt Verle gave my mom a classic zucchini relish recipe that Mom made for decades. She claims we liked it even better than Cucumber Relish. Zuke relish doesn’t stand out in my memories, but I loved relish as a kid, so I must have been eating a lot of these jars. It’s stood the test of time; my great-aunt’s original recipe required only minor tweaks to match today’s safe-canning standards.
Learn to make Zucchini Relish and Bread-and-Butter Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles

Classic Pickles

I’ve learned many tricks for keeping classic cucumber pickles crisp—and to set aside extra cukes for relish. Get pickling recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Dill pickles fit the “classic” category on so many levels. They have a long history among home canners, and in my home in particular. While my mom boiled vinegar brine and tended the canning kettle, my sister and I were given the job of packing whole cucumbers into quart jars because we had small hands. Weeks later, I’d start pulling jars from the packed shelves to munch on the crisp, sour vegetables.

Since I first learned to can pickles, I’ve found many tricks for keeping cucumbers crisp throughout the heated processing that lets you store them on shelves at room temperature. My mom always added grape leaves from our homegrown vines, harnessing their tannins to help keep the cukes crisp; I found horseradish leaves have the same effect. I’ve also started pasteurizing the jars instead of dropping them into a boiling water bath. Pasteurizing takes a little more time at my altitude, but the lower temperature still gives a crunchier pickle. Set aside any cucumbers that are blemished or won’t squeeze into the jars for relish.
Learn to make Processed Cucumber Dill Pickles and Cucumber Relish

Classic Jams

I’ve turned from my mom’s classic recipes to more fruit-forward jams. Get homemade jam recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
As a kid, jam making dominated the summer berry and fruit season. My dad grew much of the fruit: rows of strawberries ripened not long after school let out, and raspberries, boysenberries, and loganberries, which my dad started with cuttings from my grandfather’s vines, came on midsummer. Raspberries were always my favorite: I learned from my mom to fill small canning jars with fresh berries using a classic recipe straight out of the Ball Blue Book, with fruit, lemon juice, powdered pectin, and lots of sugar.

That last bit is the reason I’ve turned from my childhood recipes to updated versions using Pomona’s Universal Pectin whenever I want to can any jam with added pectin. It jells with little or no sweetener and is vegan (it’s extracted from citrus peel and activated by calcium). You can get about four batches instead of the usual one from each box of pectin, and although you risk a softer set, I’ve successfully cooked multiple batches at once. The first jam I ever made with it, more than 10 years ago and using a blend of berries, is still one of my favorites. I soon followed it with a version using my favorite sour cherries.
Learn to make Tart Berry Jam and Sour Cherry Jam