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Posts Tagged ‘zucchini pickles’

The zucchini plant is a fairly tough customer. If the soil is of good quality, it can grow to massive sizes, its huge leaves much larger than your whole head. Little spiny hairs cover its leaves and stalks, irritating and itching the bare arms of those who are sensitive to them. At least in my plantings, it seems to shrug off all insects, animals, and disease, save for the powdery mildew that sometimes saps its strength (but never seems to fully kill it) in the cooler days of late summer. Its foliage is often nicked or lopped off by an accident with my harvesting knife, but more just grows back to replace it, the vines perpetually lengthening as you pick from them until they are feet long at the end of the season. The same things are true for summer squash – they are, after all, the same species.

These plants are also legendary for how prolific they are. It seems that everyone who grows them – and even those who live near those growers – know of their amazing ability to pop out fruit after fruit. Tales abound of zucchini stuffed in mailboxes, or of piles of giant lunkers left on steps or porches. I sell them 2/$1, but even with that and eating them besides, I’ve still brought boxes to work before in an effort to prevent them from going to waste.

This is especially true when your plants are cranking out two-headed mutants.

Because of this extreme overproduction, zucchini fans are often scrambling for things to do with it. You can only eat so much fried squash or zucchini-based stir-fry before it gets very tiresome. Thankfully, over the past few years I’ve gained knowledge of several things to do with them when I have 30 of them on my table and can’t move them fast enough. I’ve decided to share some of these with you, because I know that right now my plants are in full swing and will be cranking them out for weeks to come.

– Zucchini Chips –

These consist of thin crosswise slices/rounds of zucchini that are coated with (optional) seasonings and dried. A mandolin slicer makes it really easy to produce the slices, but you can do it by hand with a knife too as long as you are able to make a rather thin cut. You don’t want it extremely thin, though, because there’s a lot of water to them and drying will turn too-thin slices into little more than squash-flavored paper that tears apart when you touch it. Around 1/4″ or so seems to work well for me.

No skinning or seeding is needed as long as the zucchini is not gigantic – just rinse for debris and then cut the ends off and you’re good to go.

They are very easy to produce with a small dehydrator set at veggie setting/130-140F. It takes several hours, but they are hard to ruin this way. They can also apparently be done in a low-temperature oven as well, though I have little experience with this method. When seasoning, go light – the flavor concentrates as the slices dry. My favorite flavors are Hidden Valley ranch (it comes in a powder form you can just sprinkle on) or cinnamon sugar.

– Zucchini Bread (or Muffins) – 

This is a great way to use up ugly zucchini or giant ones of great size (though you still may want to skin and seed really, really big ones because those parts get tough and hard). The zucchini is grated finely before going into the recipe, making age and appearance less important. The recipe below is my aunt’s, and I’ve used it dozens of times to make delicious quickbread out of my surplus. You can easily pour it into muffin tins or cups to make individual portions out of it, too. No alterations are needed to do this.

You can throw in other things you like, or subtract those you don’t. For example, I often leave off nuts or exchange cranberries or blueberries for them, and I sometimes omit coconut if I don’t have any on hand. I also add more cinnamon than called for, and almost always toss in a dash of clove as well.  The recipe seems tolerant of changes as long as you keep the basic ingredients the same. This recipe also freezes extremely well if wrapped closely in aluminum foil and then placed in a gallon Ziploc (wrap the sealed end of the Ziploc around the loaf and press out excess air, taping in place if desired). I have kept it frozen for over 3 years with no significant loss in quality.

Aunt Smith’s Zucchini Bread

3 eggs

2 c. sugar

-> mix these ingredients together, then add…

3 c. grated zucchini or summer squash

1 c. oil (any mild tasting oil will work)

2 tsp. vanilla

-> mix these ingredients together, then add…

3 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 c. chopped nuts, coconut, berries, or other mix-ins (optional)

Bake about an hour at around 350 degrees. Watch for doneness after 40-45 minutes – prick into center with a toothpick to test. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Makes 2 regular loaves.

Still taking over the table?

– Stuffed Zucchini –

This is one of my semi-lazy methods of dealing with extra zucchini. Cut the ends off and slice once lengthwise, as ‘down the middle’ as possible. Scoop or scrape out some of the seeds to make a crater. Stuff the crater with stuffing, cheese, other veggies, or anything tasty that your heart can dream up. If you don’t want to bother with that, simply stuff with Stove Top stuffing mix or some other equivalent. Bake in the oven until it looks delicious. I usually default to baking at 350 degrees F.

Sometimes it works better to precook or parboil the zucchini for a few minutes before stuffing, or to tent foil over the baking sheet and remove at the last few minutes if browning is desired, although this isn’t strictly necessary because I have had success without precooking as well.

– Pickled Zucchini –

Zucchini and summer squash can be pickled using most recipes that call for cucumbers. I only like sweet or bread and butter pickles, so that’s all I make, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use them in a dill recipe too. Feel free to try them in any recipe you already use. Just be aware that they’ll turn out a bit softer than cucumber pickles, at least in my experience. I find that they’re best if cut into spears and seeded before the pickling process.

The easiest bread and butter pickle recipe I use is as follows. Spices can be substituted or added to depending on what you like.

8 cups sliced cucumbers or zucchini (chunks, spears, or round slices work equally well)

2 c. sliced onions

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. vinegar (I use cider vinegar)

1 1/2 tsp. pickling salt

2 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. celery seed

Place all ingredients together in a large pot. Heat on medium to high heat until liquid starts to boil, stirring the mixture to soak all ingredients in the brine. Pack in hot, sterilized jars and seal. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes about 2 quart jars.

Pickled peas, zukes, cukes, and summer squash help to stuff this old cupboard

Zucchini is right up there with my green beans as far as overabundance goes, and its texture and mild flavor lend it really well to all kinds of interesting applications. Stay tuned for Part II of this article, where I reveal one of my favorite (and most unexpected) ways to use summer squashes, as well as a great way that you can use up several of them and barely even notice their presence!

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