With the vegetable season in full bloom, we are starting our “preserving season”. This is my most favorite part of the year…other than Christmas (we save our finest goodies for this holiday). From our garden we have a plethora of zucchinis and hopefully tomatoes to preserve. We get our plums and Asian pears from my parents and other fruits from our friends and neighbors. We also forage for berries and mushrooms and utilize farm stands and of course our lovely CSA to obtain food for us to preserve. This year, we hope to barter for some produce and other goodies.
Pickling is one of my most favorite means to preserve food. We have a pantry with all of our can goods (which will be remodeled this year to better store our food…later on that) and it adds joy to my life when I see the colorful jars of preserved goods I know my family will enjoy through seasons of tasteless grocery store vegetables. Pickling is not difficult but it takes some time out of your schedule and I think that is one major reason some people shy away from it. To avoid the semi lengthy process of canning our pickled products (we will be doing so later in the season, for longer storage), we make refrigerated pickled vegetables including squash, apples, daikon/radishes, onions and of course, cucumbers.
Paul introduced me to pickled squash and I haven’t been the same since. “Why hasn’t my family done this before?”, enters my mind every time I take a bite of the sweet and tangy little treats.
Refrigerated pickles differ in taste and have lots of advantages over traditional pickling. You still have to sterilize the jars and the lids (which is no problem for us since our new dishwasher comes with a sterilizing function which saves me the hassle of doing it with hot water) and make the brine but since you get to keep the goodies in your fridge (versus canning) at that point you are almost done. Another advantage is texture, for things like summer squashes, pickles, and apples, the texture is more crunchy and firm–which is more desirable by most. Don’t get me wrong, if done right, all pickles are crunchy but it takes some art to perfect the brine and the temperature where the goodies are stored–hence the popularity of root cellars. Last but not least, the most important advantage of refrigerated pickles versus the conventional pickling is the instant gratification! Chop, brine, refrigerate and enjoy (plus or minus a day, depending on how pickled you want things to be).
Our first pickling experience of the season will be summer squash since we have lots of it! You will need about 7 cups of chopped squash total, the size and thickness of the squash is entirely up to you.
We have Ronde de Nice heirloom summer squash
Zephry summer squash (a Middle-Eastern variety)
and of course, zucchini.
The rest ingredients are:
- 1 cup grated carrots ( I used my veggie noodle maker…mainly because I like using it but also because it made the carrot look cool.
- 1 cup thinly sliced onions
- 1 cup finely chopped pepper (spicy, if that is preferred)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tbs mustard seeds
- 1 tbs pickling salt
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Squashes will produce lots of liquid and mix with the sugar, salt and vinegar to produce “the brine”. The next day, pack the squash tightly into jars (you can reuse recycled (sterilized) jars) and pour the brine over the vegetables and refrigerate. Done! The squash can be kept in the fridge for about three months or it can be canned in the pressure cooker or water bath using the same recipe. We usually do a few batches of both. We enjoy the “fresh” pickles first and then brake into the canned stash.
We usually eat this as a anti-pasti, snacks, or include it into fresh vegetable salads–it adds a nice touch to an otherwise boring green salad. Out of seven cups of squash, I made four small(er) jars and one big one, for us. I made the four little ones for our family to give away
The zucchini saga will continue as we freeze some to be saved for baby food. Our latest addition will be discovering solid food at a time of year when fresh vegetables are hard to find, or from south of the equator. The plan is to blanch and freeze the zucchini, and other vegetables, and use a Beaba babycook, which is a small steamer and food processor in one, to prepare baby food for him as needed. The quality of baby food prepared this way is not even comparable to store bought.
We had thought of canning our own, but decided against it. First of all, we would either have to deal with tons of tiny jars or always have a partially used, larger jar in the refrigerator, loosing quality and potentially spoiling. By freezing the vegetables in a mostly uncooked state we are maximizing the nutritional value, while allowing us to make small amounts as needed.
Since we received our bulk share of peaches and basil, next on our to do list will be cinnamon peach jam, Black berry and basil jam and pesto! Canning tomatoes and making dill pickles are also in our near future, not to mention two or three more batches of refrigerated summer squash.
Thanks for reading!