Our perennial problem each summer is what to do with the bumper crop of summer squash we harvest from the garden. Most vegetable gardeners invariably grow too much zucchini, and no doubt many of us end up passing along our excesses to unsuspecting friends, and neighbors.
If, like us, you strive to eat foods that are in season, it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed with the deluge of zucchini at this time of year.
The trouble with summer squash is it doesn’t store very well. We do shred some and freeze it each season for use in baked goods throughout the year, like our Zucchini Orange Bread. Freezing zucchini though tends to alter the texture, rendering it soft, and watery, making it less ideal for use in recipes like our favorite Zucchini Fritters.
Last year, out of sheer desperation, I decided to try something new (for us). Zucchini Pickles! The amazing thing is we were pleasantly surprised to discover these pickles actually get better as they age.
This is, in my opinion, one of the best methods we’ve found of preserving our summer squash for an extended period, where the squash tastes at least as good as the day it was processed. As such, I see no reason, if like us you’re drowning in squash this summer, why you shouldn’t make a double, or triple batch. Any summer squash will work, zucchini, straight or crookneck, even patty pan squash. Don’t used oversized squash though, as you don’t want the pickle to be excessively seedy. Those squashes, in our garden, usually go to the chickens!
I originally found a recipe for Zucchini Pickles in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and there are similar recipes in The Joy of Pickling too. I generally prefer the refrigerator type pickle recipes though, as water-bath processing can render the pickles less crisp.
I love to make cucumber pickles, but was skeptical that zucchini pickles could be as good. I was concerned they’d be lacking both in flavor, and texture. To my surprise, these pickles are very flavorful, slightly sweet, but brightly acid, and the texture was simply perfect, so this recipe is now in standard rotation in our summer kitchen.
Yield: 4 Pints
Sharp Chef’s Knife, Mandoline, or V-Slicer
Large shallow mixing bowl
4 One-Pint canning jars, with lids
Measuring spoons, and measuring cups
2 Pounds fresh summer squash, not too large or seedy
2 Small yellow onions
4 tbsp Kosher salt
1 Cup of ice cubes
4 Cups cider vinegar
2 Cups granulated sugar
3 tsp dry English mustard
3 tsp crushed brown mustard seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
Prepare the Brine
Combine the cider vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric in a saucepan set over medium heat.
Simmer the brine for 3 minutes, and set aside.
Allow the brine to cool until just warm to the touch.
Prepare the Zucchini and Onion
While the brine cools, wash the zucchini, and trim the ends.
Slice the Zucchini 1/16th of an inch thick.
To ensure even brining, I prefer to use a mandoline to slice the squash. If you don’t use a mandoline, the zucchini can be sliced with a very sharp knife, but it’s important to be consistent with the width of the slices.
Slice the yellow onion very thinly, and place the onion and zucchini into a large shallow bowl.
Add the Kosher salt, and toss with the zucchini and onion to distribute the salt evenly. Add the ice cubes to the bowl, and enough cold water to cover, and stir well to dissolve the salt.
Allow the salted zucchini and onion mixture to stand for 1 hour. Drain the squash and onion mixture, and remove any remaining ice cubes.
Place the squash mixture, one handful at a time, into the salad spinner. It’s important to remove the excess moisture from the squash to ensure the flavor of the pickles is not diluted. If you don’t own a salad spinner, the squash and onion can be dried between paper towels.
Once dried, replace the squash and onion mixture into the mixing bowl, and add cooled brine solution. It’s important that the brine is NOT hot, or the zucchini slices will cook! Stir the brine solution and zucchini mixture to evenly distribute the spices throughout.
Transfer the zucchini pickle mixture to the jars, ensuring the brine solution covers the pickles.
Cover and refrigerate the jars.
The pickles should stand in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours, however, I recommend not touching them for at least a week…if you can resist the temptation. They’ll taste great after 24 hours, but the mustard and turmeric will gradually infuse the pickle slices, and the onion, and the flavors will mellow if allowed to stand a little longer. These pickles, if you make enough, will easily keep for a year in the refrigerator, and as their flavor only improves with age, it’s worthwhile to make extra while the summer squash season is in full swing. Enjoy!