Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Put Up or Shut Up: Episode 3 - Zucchini

Looking up articles on the internet for preserving zucchini, I found they all started something like this:

The main downside to zucchini is just how much zucchini you can wind up getting off of one plant. If you've ever grown zucchini (or you've lived next door to someone who grew zucchini), you know that you can quickly find yourself leaving bags of zucchini on your friends' front porches just to keep up with what's growing in your garden.


In the late summer when I was growing up, brown paper bags filled with zucchini used to magically appear on our front stoop. Backyard gardeners in my neighborhood would have such a large crop of zucchini that anonymous zucchini drop-offs were the only solution to getting rid of it.


The season of zucchini overabundance will soon be here. Before you resort to unloading your surplus in unlocked cars and empty mailboxes...


It's not as serious as all that, people.

And yet, when my CSA sent an email stating that vine boring beetles had demolished their zucchini crop, I found myself wondering if I could just sneak a courgette into each of the member's boxes without anyone noticing.

Okay, I don't have quite that much.

Like rhubarb, I actually feel the best way to preserve zucchini is to freeze it.  Grate it up, and stick it in one cup balls into the freezer.  When I grate it, I also like to throw it into a colander and let it's own weight press out some of the water.  I don't go out of my way to squeeze all the water out, because the water is going to help it in the freezer anyway, but there is a lot of water so it's nice to get some of it out.

In the winter, then, you can use the zucchini in anything that you would bake with zucchini - bread, muffins, cookies, etc.  You can also throw it into a stew.  One of my personal favorites uses is in a zucchini fritter, which I discovered in March.  I was just looking for a way to use up the zucchini I had frozen the previous summer, and I found a recipe that is going to become a winter staple for me.  In the winter, when it's almost impossible to get a fresh vegetable, this is something that really tastes like zucchini.  And it's deep fried, which is always a bonus.
Finished Zucchini Pickles

You can also make zucchini pickles, which I made last year and which are good but not great.  I adore a pickle (you may have noticed) and these were not something I would have just eaten on their own.  They tasted to much like a regular cucumber pickle, but weren't as good as a regular cucumber pickle.  They were a nice addition to a picked item plate, so I am including a recipe for both regular and spicy zucchini pickles. I'd recommend a jar or two, but don't overdo it.

A big success from the canning last year was the zucchini relish.  It's like pickle relish, but with zucchini.  Pickle relish is a little scary when you buy it from the store - what with the bright green, not found in nature color, and I found this to be much tastier.  To be fair, I have not tried to make my own pickle relish, so I'm not really comparing apples to apples.  This was again a spicier version, which I appreciate.  It's a nice addition to a sausage in the middle of the winter - especially a richer sausage (like one with cheese!) because the sweet and spicy notes cut through the heaviness nicely.

This year, I will be making the same pickle relish, probably in a larger quantity than last year.  I also am currently in the process of making the same relish but with yellow squash instead of zucchini.  I feel like it should taste about exactly the same, just a different color.  Maybe a little sweeter, too.  We will see, and I will report back.
The yellow squash relish needs to sit for a day. 
Go ahead and click on the link to get the recipe.
For this version, I just substituted yellow squash
for the zucchini, and used green peppers instead
of red.
Finished zucchini relish from last season

Along the lines of yellow summer squash, I had a new addition to the canning repertoire this summer.  I made summer squash and onions.  While I haven't busted it open and tried any yet, I feel like it should be a good winter side dish - maybe with a baked chicken.

The summer squashes can be overwhelming, but there's no need to abandon them on neighbors doorsteps. 

*Quick Side Note: There is some drama on the safety of canning summer squash and zucchini.  According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Why is canning summer squash or zucchini not recommended?
Recommendations for canning summer squashes, including zucchini, that appeared in former editions of So Easy to Preserve or USDA bulletins have been withdrawn due to uncertainty about the determination of processing times. Squashes are low-acid vegetables and require pressure canning for a known period of time that will destroy the bacteria that cause botulism. Documentation for the previous processing times cannot be found, and reports that are available do not support the old process. Slices or cubes of cooked summer squash will get quite soft and pack tightly into the jars. The amount of squash filled into a jar will affect the heating pattern in that jar. It is best to freeze summer squashes or pickle them for canning, but they may also be dried.

 Here's what I took away from that: "OR PICKLED THEM FOR CANNING."  That would make me think pickling is okay.  Other internet sources say no canning no way!  So, use your best judgement.  If you pop open any canned good and it smells weird, has discolored spots, or is growing the mold, don't eat it.  Botulism may be a funny word, but it is not a funny illness. 

Pretty, yes.  Delicious?  No.
One note on the passage from the NCHFP - I did try drying the zucchini and I found it to be a huge disappointment.  I made dehydrated zucchini chips and I was not a fan.  Despite being all the way dried and pretty thin, they weren't very crispy and seemed stale immediately upon coming out of the dehydrator.  Also, despite putting them in an airtight jar, they seemed to get a little weird after only one day.  Looking into it further, I found that you were supposed to refrigerate or freeze dried zucchini.  If that's the case, what's the point in dehydrating it?  The only thing that I could see and might do is dehydrating some bigger chunks to rehydrate later in a stew.  But, I don't generally feel the need to put zucchini in a stew - it doesn't have a strong flavor so I don't feel like it adds that much.  So I probably won't do that unless I decide that I have enough grated zucchini to make zucchini bread and zucchini fritters every weekend all winter long.

Before making either of these recipes, please notice that they both have massive quantities of salt (which does get washed off after soaking).  If you don't, you might have a reasonable amount of salt on hand and start making the recipes, only to have to run to the store late at night to buy salt.  Even though you were JUST there to buy vinegar.  And even though you HATE that grocery store, because the check out people insist on judging your food, and that one time you saw a mouse, but it's the only store that's open in the middle of the night.  Or maybe you're not like me, and you prepare prior to cooking.  Good for you.

Zucchini Pickles
(From Put em Up!)
Makes 6 pints
  • 4 pounds summer squash and/or zucchini
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled'
Trim the ends from the squash and cut into spears 1 inch shorter than pint jars.  Toss the squash and onion with the salt in a large bowl.  Cover with cold water and set aside for 2 hours.  Drain, rinse thoroughly, and drain again.

Pack the squash mixture into clean, hot pint jars, and add a clove of garlic to each jar.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, oregano, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to a boil in a large, nonreactive saucepan.  Pour the hot brine over the vegetables to cover by 1/2 an inch.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.

Release any trapped air from the jars and wipe the rips clean.  Process for 30 minutes using the boiling water method.  After 30 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

For spicy zucchini peppers, cut three Thai chillies in half the long way.  Add 1/2 pepper to each jar with the garlic.  For slightly less spicy pickles, remove the seeds carefully (and don't touch your eyes afterward!) 
Finished yellow squash and onion relish

Squash and Onion Relish
(Also from Put Em Up!)
Makes 4 Pints 

  • 2 pounds yellow squash, ends removed, diced
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups salt
  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
Toss squash and onions with the salt in a large bowl.  Cover with cold water and set aside for two hours.  Drain, rinse thoroughly, and drain again.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, and rosemary to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the drained vegetables, return to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Ladle into clean, hot jars, covering the solids by 1/4 inch with liquid.  Leave 1/5 inch of headspace between the top of the lid and the lid.  Release trapped air and wipe the rims clean.  Process for 15 minutes using the boiling water method.  Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.


  1. I think I am going to turn my house into a greenhouse! Before I saw this post I already had plans to grow okra and aubergines (eggplant) indoors (as I don't have a greenhouse proper or the climate outdoors). Now, it looks like I will be adding courgette (zucchini) to the list :)
    Enjoy your pickles!

    1. I would love to hear how growing the courgette works indoors. They take up a lot of space, and tend to re-root off of the vines. I would try them in something wide - like a storage bin.

  2. I almost got eaten by Kate's courgette this morning. Kate does not need a guard dog, she has guard courgette! I think it called me Seymore....

  3. Dried zucchini chips need to be super dry, so if they seem soggy on day 2, just put them back in the dryer for a while longer. I like to add flavors via marinading the zucchini slices or by spreading sauces on the slices before drying.

  4. What do you eat with your Squash and Onion Relish?