Saturday, October 27, 2012

Zucchini Pickles

My hubby loves pickles.  This season I had a bumper crop of cucumbers and I tried several different methods . . . natural fermentation, beer pickles, refrigerator pickles, kosher dills, garlic dills, etc.

I also had an amazing crop of zucchini.  I wanted to preserve some using a method other than drying or freezing them.

Zucchini takes on the flavors of seasoning very well, so I thought to myself, why not try making zucchini pickles.  I made a small batch to see if they would get hubby's approval.  They've been sitting a couple months and I finally busted into a jar and put them in with his lunch without any warning about what he was getting . . . he gets pickles everyday so he was expecting to have them.

Lunch passed with no comment from him so I asked.  He said he didn't notice a difference . . . they tasted like pickles.

Zucchini pickles passed muster!  And zucchini are so easy to grow that I'm thinking they'll be a suitable pickle substitute should a cucumber crop be less than expected.

I made them using my standard dill pickle recipe using a "low temperature process" method . . . the jars stay in the water bath at a lower temperature for a longer time which is supposed to keep the pickles crunchier.

Make sure you use fresh, crisp zucchini.  Don’t can soft or overripe vegetables or you will end up with soft, limp pickles.   Small, firm fruit with dark skin are better than the gigantic zucchini that are preferable for stuffing.

You’ll need a Quick Process Pickling mix . . .  I use Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill  . . . and clear vinegar.

I generally can pickles in pint jars . . . I prefer wide mouth, but that’s up to you.

Wash the zucchini in cold water.  Then cut them into spears.  Makes sure the pickles are a length that leaves at least a half an inch of head space in the jar.

Before you pack the jars you will need to make sure the jars are clean and sanitized.  If you’re dishwasher has a high temperature wash then that is sufficient.  If not submerge the jars in a large pot of water . . . I use my canning pot . . .  and bring it to a boil.  Put the lids in another pot and boil them for several minutes and leave them in the hot water.

Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).

Follow the directions on the pickle mix . . . basically combine the mix with vinegar (and water if the recipe calls for it).  Bring to a near boil.

Add the zucchini spears and simmer for 3 minutes.  Then pack the zucchini into the jars and pour the simmering pickle mix liquid over them. Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.   You can add a clove of garlic and a sliced jalapeno for extra spice.

The zucchini tend to float in the liquid that's why it's important not to over fill the jars.  Make sure you wipe the lip of the jar and push them down and seal with the ring.

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling until you are ready to process. Then, here's the key to crisp pickles: pickles should be processed for at 180-185°F, which is obviously below boiling (212 F), but hot enough to kill bacteria.

Check with a thermometer to be certain that the water temperature remains above 180° during the entire processing time. But keep the temperature below 185° to avoid breaking down the pectin.

Process them for 30 minutes.

Then carefully remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool in a draft-free area.  I know it’s tempting but don’t touch the jars while they’re cooling and try not to bump or jostle them.  Just let them sit quietly.

After 24 hours you can remove the rings and make sure your jars have sealed.  But any jars where the lid hasn’t sucked down into the fridge and eat them first.  You can check by pressing your finger into the center of the lid . . . if it pops then it’s not properly sealed.

You can eat the pickles anytime but they’re better if you wait at least 2 weeks.  It’s torture but it’s worth it!

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