Zucchini Pickles

Ahh…zucchini. The Energizer Bunny of the vegetable garden.

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It keeps going, even when we’ve had our fill of zucchini lemon muffins and zucchini fritters.

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And going, until a Montana woman reaches for one to fend off a bear attack. (Yes, seriously.)

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And going, until we make these zucchini pickles.

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And then it’s going, going, gone.

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Zucchini Pickles

adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

makes about 1 quart

Because these are quick pickles (quickles), no special canning equipment or know-how is required. All that’s needed is zucchini, onions, kosher salt, vinegar, sugar and spice. (And everything nice. That’s what pickles are made of.)

Actually, these aren’t limited to zucchini, as you can see from the pictures. These bread and butter pickles also work well with yellow squash. Use a mixture of the two squashes to make your jar of pickles extra colorful. Or try using green beans, carrots, okra, bell peppers, or cucumbers instead.

I reduce the sugar and add red pepper flakes and garlic to add a little zing to the original recipe. I prefer the pickles cut thicker than the one-sixteenth-inch thick recommended. I also like adding “stripes” by running the tines of a fork lengthwise down the zucchini before slicing.

* 1 pound zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick
* 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 2 cups cider vinegar
* ¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
* 1½ teaspoons dry mustard
* 1½ teaspoons yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
* ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
* ½-;¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 2-3 cloves garlic, whole

Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow bowl, add the salt and mix well. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt. Chill for about one hour. This step ensures that the zucchini stays crisp because the salt draws out the excess moisture, so don’t skip it.

Meanwhile, open your kitchen window and/or turn on your exhaust fan because this next step stinks – literally. Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, turmeric (careful – it stains!), red pepper flakes, and garlic in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.

After about 1 hour of chilling, taste and feel a piece of zucchini — it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.

Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour in the cooled brine. Stir to evenly distribute the spices. Transfer the pickles to a quart jar, preferably one that has “shoulders” to hold the zucchini and onions beneath the surface of the brine. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving. This allows the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini. These will last about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

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