Gadzukes! Freezer pickles and hodgepodge

Zucchini are gifts that keep on giving, but they are also like a tedious guest who refuses to call it a night. Knowing this I planted a mere three zucchini plants this year. To date I have harvested about 70-pounds of the fruit. From the garden fence, if I squint, I can just make out their dark green profiles through the tall grasses and other bountiful weeds. A very busy summer with kids and other fast-growing things has provided us with more than our share of overlooked and overgrown zucchini. (I've pulled about seven baby baseball bat zukes out of there this season.)

How do we make good use of such a prolific provider? We started off strong, as always, breading and frying thick slices in olive oil; hollowing out and stuffing with rice and meat then steaming or baking; chopping and sauteing with garlic, onions and various herbs; making Carl Goh's zucchini bread from James Beard's classic Beard on Bread - a favorite from childhood on which I am constantly dialing-down the sugar.

When we inevitably tired of zucchini I started preparing it for the freezer. I shredded larger zukes, excising and excluding the seeds, and put them in a colander. After sprinkling with salt and tossing, I let it drain for an hour or so, then rinsed, squeezed out excess water, vacuum-sealed and tossed in the freezer for adding to winter breads or stews. I also diced zucchini and sauteed with onions and garlic in olive oil, then sealed and froze.

If only the tomatoes were ripening in force when the zukes kicked in with authority, I could have used them together to make and can or freeze garden vegetable pasta sauce. With 283-heads of garlic harvested, red, white and yellow onions curing, 19 pepper plants beginning to produce, and a bazillion tomatoes swelling on the vines, I tucked some zucchini away in the freezer until all the ingredients were available for sauce. I diced zukes and blanched them in boiling water for four minutes, then drained well and vac-sealed for the freezer.

freezer pickles

So much cooking, and still the zucchini piled up on the counter every couple of days. I turned to freezer pickles long before the first cucumbers were long enough to pick. Zucchini make great pickles, and not having to run a water bath for canning during the hottest days of summer is greatly appreciated. Freezer pickles have caught my eye in recent years, and they reportedly stay crunchy for a minimum of six-months. I've never made them before, but I am interested to see how that claim holds up this coming February. I use a recipe very similar to this one, but I cut the sugar down by a quarter-cup or so and add three-to-five cloves of crushed garlic to the sliced zukes and onions before adding the cooled brine. I also double all the amounts, and still have enough zukes, onions, garlic and dill to make a batch every three days. I'm now alternating batches with the great number of cucumbers coming in from the gardens. A container or two evade the freezer and are consumed fresh. These pickles are very good on burgers, in sandwiches, with fish or straight out of the fridge as a snack.

These Japanese cucumbers grow long and sweet, rather than fat and bitter - really helpful when you are at risk for missing a fruit or two here and there.

 

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