Guest post by Ronda Redmond
I love zucchini. I really love it. And, the stretch of time when I only have access to sad zucchini make my heart all the more full when the first vibrant and shiny zukes of the season make their way into my world. The distance between a winter zucchini and a summer zucchini from the Farmers’ Market is substantial, so when my favorite vegetable is in season, I make the best of it. Here are 3 ways I’ve found to keep the love coming all winter long.
If you are using smaller zucchini (around 8 inches), it isn’t necessary to seed them. But, if you’re getting the ridiculously giant ones (and don’t be afraid to do that!), cut them open and scoop out the seeds. I never peel them. If the skin is a little thicker, it just adds texture.
I like to pull out the food processor and shred 8 to 10 pounds at a time. I let it rest in batches in a strainer to get rid of some excess water. Next, I take 8 oz plastic cups, fill them up, and put them in the freezer to set. Once they’re frozen, I pop them out of the cups (keep the cups to reuse them) and store the zucchini in gallon freezer bags. These are great for soups and sauces through the winter. I’ve also found a couple of good casserole recipes. Keep the extra moisture in mind and allow the zucchini to properly thaw and drain. Zucchini this way is also super yummy sautéed on medium high heat with butter and served with eggs for breakfast.
Why not kick out some zucchini bread while you’re at it? There are so many varieties out there and they freeze beautifully—I wrap the baked loaves in aluminum foil. Everyone loves zucchini bread… It’s a solid standby to thaw for a potluck or weekend company.
Did you know that you can make a great sweet relish with zucchini? The recipe is pretty much identical to relish made with cucumbers. Throw in a few red pepper flakes if you want some heat. I use this in tuna casserole and salads to give meals a really nice kick. It’s also good in egg salad, and of course on grilled meats.
Mustard relish is another zucchini option. It’s not as common as sweet relish and something I’ve rarely seen in a grocery store.
Both of these recipes contain vinegar and are therefore fair game for water bath canning. As always, follow safe canning methods as defined by a trusted source such as Ball, Kerr, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Sterilize your jars—every single time.
Savory Zucchini Butter
Yes, I said butter. Not dairy, though. Think slow reduction to a deep savory goodness that you would eat as a spread or a dip. There are a number of recipes out there. Most make a small batch that you store in the fridge when you’re done and eat within a few weeks. The process itself takes awhile, so I like to multiply the recipe several times over. You can freeze zucchini butter in containers or you can pressure can it following instructions for pressure canning zucchini.
Regardless of the size of the zucchini butter batch you make, get ready for the long haul. The key is a slow and low sauté. Don’t walk too far away from the stove—you’ll need to give it a stir every now and then. Keep an eye on the texture and take a taste every once in a while. You can cook it down until it is a consistency and flavor you like. I typically hike the heat up a bit at the end in order to get a little bit of a caramelization going, but be careful not to burn it. In all, be ready for 4 to 6 hours on the stove. A wide pan with a thick bottom works best.
Now, get to the Farmer’s Market and buy some zucchini! You’d better get there before I do…
Ronda Redmond lives in St. Peter, Minnesota with her husband, 2 teenage sons, and 2 dogs. She has been a member of the St. Peter Food Co-op since her family moved here in 2002. Ronda is a Business Analyst for United Health Care and is currently working on a manuscript of poetry. When she’s not working, she enjoys strength training at The Pulse or binge watching Netflix with family while eating popcorn and drinking wine. She loves thinking about and planning new kitchen adventures and is always up for a new food challenge/obsession.