Preserving Summer Squash


Preserving summer squash is easy. And since they are so productive, you can put a lot of food on the pantry shelf from just a few plants. Summer squash are full of water. That means they don’t freeze or can well, because they turn to mush. the extra water content does help make them easy to use in relish. Surprisingly, they dehydrate quite well, and zucchini chips are pretty tasty. Grated summer squash, on the other hand, freezes very well and can also be dehydrated.

Cultured Zucchini Relish

  • 2 medium small zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, chopped fine
  • 1 daikon radish, halved lengthwise and then chopped in 1/8 inch slices, optional
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp. sea salt
  • 1 grape or oak leaf to maintain crispness (optional)

Mix all ingredients except the leaf in a bowl. Let sit 5 minutes. Press the vegetables for 5 minutes or so by pressing down with a potato masher to assist with release of liquid from the vegetables; there should be a fair amount of liquid in the bowl. The liquid must cover the vegetables once placed in the jar so be sure not to skip this step. Place the leaf in the bottom of a glass quart-sized mason jar (wide-mouth jar is best so that the weight fits in). Spoon vegetable mix into the jar and be sure to pour all liquid into the jar also. Use another smaller jar that fits inside the quart mason jar to act as a weight and keep the vegetables down beneath the liquid. Be sure to leave at least an inch of air space at the top of the jar so that as the veggies ferment and bubble out gases the liquid doesn’t overflow the jar–press the weight down every day to help release the gas bubbles. Put a lid loosely on the jar or cover it with a towel held in place with a rubber band. Leave at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. Depending on how warm it is, the fermentation time will vary so taste the mixture every day. It is ready when it has a tangy taste and smell. At that point move to the refrigerator for long-term storage.

Lacto-Fermented Dilled Zucchini Relish

  • 3 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • Handful of fresh dill, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • Oak, grape, or mesquite leaves, optional

Combine all ingredients except the leaves in a medium bowl and gently pound with potato masher for a few minutes, until a brine begins to form. Transfer all ingredients to a quart jar and press down to allow brine to come up above vegetables, leaving 1-1/2 inches of headspace. Place leaves on top of vegetables followed by a weight to keep the vegetables submerged. Place lid on quart jar, followed by airlock if using. Allow to ferment for 3 to 10 days at room temperature. If not using an airlock, “burp” jar every day for the first few days to allow gases to escape. Transfer to cold storage once it is tangy and bubbly to suit your taste.

Fermented Zucchini Relish

  • 6 cups grated zucchini
  • ½ of a red or white onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 1 Tbsp fine salt or 1.5 Tbsp coarse salt
  • 1-2 tbsp pickling spice
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 grated carrots
  • Optional: hot peppers like jalapenos

Prep vegetables as noted above, adding to a large bowl to mix. Add salt and spices, gently tossing to combine. Stuff into clean jars, leaving an inch or more of head space at the top. Clean the rim of the jar and weigh down the veggies with a smaller jar, pressing down so that the brine covers the grated veggies. Cover with clean cloth and secure with rubber band. Leave this semi-open vessel on the countertop. Ambient room temps are fine, if it is quite hot in your kitchen move the jars to ferment in a cooler space. The jars may bubble over the next few days, so check them and skim any foam that appears. This helps prevent mold formation. You can check the relish by tasting it at any time, just replace the weight. Within 4-7 days, it will be as tangy as you like it. Then you can put a lid on it and refrigerate.

Canned Zucchini Relish

  • 2 cups shredded or chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup sweet green pepper
  • 1/2 cup sweet red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Chop the peppers and onions. Shred the zucchini. Place the vegetables in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of salt. Fill the bowl with cool water until the vegetables are completely covered. Let stand 2 hours. Drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly with water. Combine the sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, and vinegar in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the chopped vegetables. Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle the hot zucchini relish into jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Process the jars of canned zucchini relish in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes four half-pints. This canning recipe may easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

Lemon Dill Zucchini Chips

  • 3-4 medium zucchini
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 2 lemons (juiced)
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (or to taste)

Slice zucchini very thinly by hand or with a mandoline. Put the sliced zucchini into a bowl and add the dill, lemon juice and himalayan pink salt. Toss until all zucchini slices are covered with the lemon juice mixture. Spread the zucchini out evenly on a mesh tray in a dehydrator. Dehydrate at 115° F for 10 – 12 hours or until crispy.

Zucchini Garlic Chips

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to 200°F. Use a mandoline to thinly slice zucchinis into 1/8 inch slices. If cutting by hand, try to ensure slices are the same width. In a large bowl, toss sliced zucchini with all other ingredients. Use your hands to press dill/vinegar mixture onto each individual slice. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking spray and add zucchini chips individually spaced. You may need 2 baking sheets. Add to preheated oven and bake for 2-2.5 hours, or until crisp and very lightly gold in spots. If cutting zucchini by hand, make sure to watch the oven closely towards the end as some slices may need to be removed from the oven before others.

Zucchini and Lemon Jam

  • 2 ¼ pounds zucchini, topped and tailed, and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 2 ¼ pounds granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp finely shredded lemon verbena leaves (optional)

Put the zucchini into a preserving pan with the sugar and lemon zest. Stir and leave overnight to macerate. Pour in 1 cup water and warm over medium heat, stirring until any remaining sugar crystals have dissolved. Pour in the lemon juice, stir and bring to the boil. Boil until the setting point is reached, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon verbena if using and cool for 10 minutes, then pour into jars and store in refrigerator. You can also preserve by canning as you would any other jam, but the flavor won’t be anywhere near as good.

Super Easy and Delicious Zucchini Butter

  • 2 pounds zucchini, more or less
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or butter, if you prefer
  • 2 minced shallots, garlic, or combination of both
  • Salt and pepper

Coarsely grate the zucchini. Let it drain in a colander for 3 to 4 minutes or until you are ready to begin cooking. To hasten cooking time, squeeze the water out of the zucchini by wringing it in a clean cloth towel. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil/butter. Sauté the shallots briefly. Add the zucchini and toss. Cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until the zucchini reaches a spreadable consistency. If you scorch the bottom, turn the flame down! (And scrape those delicious bits into the marmalade for added flavor.) The zucchini will hold its bright green color and slowly caramelize into a nice vegetable jam. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy on toast or as a side dish all summer long!

Frozen Summer Squash

  • Harvest summer squash, any size. Even the three-footers – don’t be embarrassed, it happens to all of us.
  • Wash well in clear cold water. I like to use a vegetable scrubbing brush.
  • Set up the food processor with the large grater blade.
  • Cut off the ends of the squash and cut crosswise into chunks about 4 or 5 inches long.
  • Cut the squash chunks lengthwise in quarters, sixths, eights or whatever is a good size to fit in the feed tube of your food processor. Don’t bother to remove seeds unless the squash is truly huge and the seeds have started to get hard.
  • Shove them in until the bowl is full. Sometimes I mix yellows and greens, sometimes I keep them separate.
  • Stop the food processor and fill plastic Ziplock freezer bags (or whatever your preferred container is) with two cups each of processed squash. I like the bags because it’s easy to compress the air out and stuff multiple bags in a bigger Ziplock freezer bag, which protects them from freezer burn and means I don’t have to search for lots of small bags in the depths of the freezer. It also means I only have to label one bag, the big one. Two cups is a good size for most recipes, but if you’re only cooking for one, you can use one cup per bag. I don’t generally use plastic anything for food storage, but this is one occasion when I make an exception. Glass jars don’t work well because by the time the squash defrosts enough to get it out, it’s turned to mush. The other thing is that grated veggies like these are particularly prone to freezer burn. Being able to get all the air out improves the keeping qualities, so this is one of the few things I freeze in Ziplock bags.
  • Repeat until you run out of squash.Put them in the freezer. They’ll keep for at least 12 months.
  • To use frozen summer squash: Take the bag out of the freezer and let the squash defrost at room temperature (don’t microwave). Pour off and save the water until you’re done with your recipe. You may want to add a little if a batter or dough looks dry. If you’re making soup, just add it to the soup.
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