What to do with too many zucchini or summer squash is a recurring topic on gardening websites, blogs and forums. In the years when I have a zucchini glut (which is not a given, there were years when the striped cucumber beetle wipes out all the plants) I find myself looking for new recipes that use a lot of zucchini – we are talking baskets and baskets full.
Yet there is only that much zucchini relish you can eat and give to friends and family so I started freezing raw zucchini for cooking. As many recipes call for zucchini by the cupful, I freeze them that way.
It’s simple: Wash and halve the zucchini. There is no need to peel organically grown zucchini, the skin provides texture, color and all the nutrients. Scrape out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon and discard. Grate the zucchini in the food processor. Lightly oil a cup measure and pack it with zucchini. Unmold it on a large plate, tray or baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the grated zucchini, placing the cups in a single layer on the plate. Put the plate on a level surface in the freezer until the zucchini are solidly frozen. Pack the cups in 1-gallon freezer bags. It is important to firmly pack the zucchini into the cups so they hold together. I fill the cup measure as much as I can, then press down on it with my fingers or the back of a soup spoon.
With this I have zucchini ready all winter long. We love zucchini pancakes. The Zucchini Cakes with Adobo spices from Just Putzing Around the Kitchen is a clear front-runner. Another favorite although more involved are the Turkey Zuccchini Burgers from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook.
I also wanted to try a new zucchini relish this year. I still like the family recipe my friend Alice gave me years ago but I have made it so many years in a row that it was time for a change.
Most recipes however contain so much sugar. I wanted something less sweet and with a bit of heat.
As usual, Linda Ziedrich’s comprehensive book The Joy of Pickling was my go-to. Unlike many of the newer titles, this is not a book that tries to pull you in with pretty photos. It’s all about but the recipes, and they are always spot-on. I liked that her zucchini relish uses less sugar but I did not have the required red bell peppers in the garden yet, only green peppers and jalapeños so I used those, and also swapped the celery seed for turmeric.
When I tasted the jalapeños though my mouth was on fire, even after I had already removed the seeds and membranes. A quick research on the Internet revealed that soaking them in ice water might take some of the heat out. And that did the trick! So I happily dumped the jalapeños into the vegetable mix.
In addition to the pleasantly hot and not overly sweet taste and the beautiful color, I like that I used only vegetables that I have in the garden right now. What I also like about this relish is that there is just enough liquid. I’ve tried recipes where I ended up having more liquid than solids in the jars.
So here is my adaptation of Linda’s recipe. I made a double batch right away. I have no more zucchini sitting on the kitchen counter. At least for today.
Zucchini Relish with Green Bell Peppers and Jalapeños
Adapted from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
4 cups (about 1¾ pounds) grated zucchini or summer squash, seeds removed and grated by hand or in the food processor
1½ cups (about 8 ounces) grated yellow onions
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 jalapeños peppers, stems, seeds and membranes removed (best to wear disposable gloves to do this)
1½ tablespoons pickling salt
¾ cup sugar
1¾ cups apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 to 4 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
3 to 4 (1-inch) cinnamon sticks
You also need:
A canning pot, or a very large stockpot
3 to 4 1-pint or 6 to 8 ½-pint canning jars with lids and new (unused) lids
- Mix the zucchini, onions, peppers and salt. Cover with cold water and a few ice cubes and let stand for 2 hours.
- Drain and rinse the vegetables, then drain again.
- In a large pot, bring the sugar, vinegar, turmeric and mustard seeds to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile divide the ginger and cinnamon among sterilized canning jars placed on a damp kitchen towel (this prevents them from cracking). Fill the piping hot relish in the jars. Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean damp paper towel. Close the jars with brand new lids and bands immediately and process in boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the water onto damp kitchen towels and let sit for 24 hours. Store in a dark and cool place and let sit for at least 3 weeks before opening. Once opened, store the jars in the fridge.
Makes about 3 to 4 1-pint or 7 to 8 ½-pint jars
Photos by Ted Rosen