Tomatillos

If you’re a gardener, you likely end your season with a rack of green tomatoes and a quest to find a way to use them. Sorry, but this is not that recipe. I gave up on green tomato salsas several years ago—the vinegar required to make the salsa shelf stable when water-bath canning has always seemed overpowering.

Instead, I fell for the lovely green lanterns that grow into tomatillos, the traditional base for salsa verde. These little husked fruits clock in at pH 3.83, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, well below the safe level for water-bath canning. The added acid simply covers the secondary low-acid vegetables and boosts the flavor.

Tomatillos are as easy to grow as tomatoes; just be sure to buy two plants so that they cross-pollinate. Not surprisingly, I prefer them grilled like tomatoes—and have found yet another beverage use for their juice. Learn to make Grilled Tomatillo Salsa and Grilled Tomatillo Margaritas

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Tomatoes

Hopefully you were swayed by my argument for grilling vegetables last month. In this week’s recipes, the grilled flavor shines. The salsa has evolved over the years from fresh to roasted and finally to grilled. We get more compliments for it than for anything else we process, and no matter how much we put up each year, our stash barely lasts to the next canning season.

The grilling creates intense flavor, but it also lets you stretch out the process to suit both your harvest and your schedule. We harvest and grill the ingredients as they come ripe, separating the tomato juice and solids. Then we stash everything in the freezer until we have enough for at least one full canner batch. It’s also a fabulous recipe for a canning party, particularly when paired with a tasty beverage to celebrate your hard work. Learn to make Grilled Tomato Chipotle Salsa and Grilled Tomato Bloody Mary Mix

Sweet Peppers

My love for grilled flavor in frozen and canned vegetables grew from a love of freshly grilled garden goodies. Long before the technique became essential for frozen eggplant puree and jars of pasta sauce and tomatillo salsa, we were grilling vegetables and immediately stuffing them into our mouths.

Although the grilled food I encountered as a kid was mainly meat, one summer treat at the family home consisted of sticks of shish kebabs. Unlike the traditional Middle Eastern meat sticks, these were mainly veg. Perhaps it was just a ploy to get little girls to eat vegetables: let them choose food to thread on sticks and spin on the grill grate until charred. I’m pretty sure my early choices were black olives, potato, and pineapple, but I eventually developed a taste for anything cooked over coals. I still rely on a version of my mom’s marinade—and grill an extra bell pepper for the next day’s munchies. Learn to make Shish Kebabs with Garlic–Soy Marinade and Corn, Bean, and Pepper Salsa

Grilling for the Future

Braised, basted, glazed, smoked, roasted, grilled—you may associate these words with large slabs of sizzling meat, but I visualize mounds of breakfast potatoes and eggs, cherry-filled scones, beets, garlic, and practically any other fruit or vegetable you can imagine. I also use these techniques when preserving food; they are the essence of making that bag of frozen corn or jar of raspberry syrup Twice as Tasty.

Grilling is one of the best techniques in my preserving repertoire. It’s easy, it’s low tech, and it takes you outdoors on a sweltering summer day or even a snow-bound midwinter one. Although grilling means extra effort initially, it can save minutes to hours on canning day or when throwing together a busy work night dinner—in other words, it saves time when it matters most. Read more about grilling vegetables and fruits