Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Best Zucchini Pickles Ever

Now is the time of year that our gardens and farmers markets are running over with zucchini squash. This abundance leads to our kitchen counters and coolers being piled high with those beautiful green fruits, which is a good thing and a bad thing. So many of us use up loads of brain power and creativity trying to figure out new and exciting things to prepare in our kitchens to keep up with the squash that Mother Nature is steadily shoveling in our direction. Inevitably, we end up feeling like we've been stricken with a zucchini plague rather than being blessed with a bountiful summer harvest. So, to take the heat off of the urge to eat all of those fine zucchini at once, why not make these amazingly yummy zucchini pickles? It's an easy pickle to make and you'll be able to enjoy some of this summer's sunshine all year long just by popping open a jar. This recipe comes from one of my all-time favorite food books, The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.

Zuni Café Zucchini Pickles

Makes about 2 pints:
1 pound zucchini squash
1 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons salt (a little more if using kosher salt)

For the brine:
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice thinly (about 1/16 inch) using a mandoline, preferably. Slice the onion very thinly, as well. Place the zucchini and the onion together in a large shallow bowl, add the salt and toss well to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

After about an hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini - it should be faintly salty and softened. Drain, making sure to remove any remaining ice cubes. Dry very thoroughly between dish towels, or spin dry, a few handfuls at a time, in a salad spinner. {Excess water with dilute the flavor and spoil the pickle.} Rinse and dry the bowl.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 minutes. This can be done while the zucchini and onion are in the icy brine. Set the vinegar mixture aside until it's just warm to the touch. If the liquid is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.

Return the zucchini and onion to the bowl and add the cooled vinegar brine. Stir to combine well.

Transfer the pickles to clean pint jars, preferably ones that have "shoulders" to help hold the zucchini beneath the surface of the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the vegetables, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color. These keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. DO NOT store these at room temperature.


  1. okay questions...could I also use yellow crookneck squash in this recipe? Also, do you think it would ruin the pickle if I process the jars in a hot water bath to seal and store in the cupboard? Does this recipe work best with small, young zucchini, or can I try with some of the monsters from my garden? Thanks Drew!

  2. @Kathleen: Although I've not tried this recipe with yellow squash, I don't see any reason why the results of doing so wouldn't be equally satisfying. As far as processing them in a hot water bath goes, I'd be a little concerned about losing some of the crispness that makes these pickles so appealing. Maybe slicing the squash a bit thicker than the recommended 1/16 inch would help stave off some of that possible wilting. Give it a try and let me know. I use this recipe for all sizes of zucchini. I'd recommend cutting the big boys in half lengthwise and removing the tough seed core that develops in mature squashes. Then, slice and proceed with the process. You'll end up with half-moon shaped pickles instead of rounds but no harm done.

  3. Thanks Drew. I'll do some experimenting today and let you know how it all works out.

  4. Pickles were a big success, and yummy as promised. I used young zucchini to make the "raw" pickles as above, and the big old guys, sliced thickly and seeded for processing. I followed the same recipe, but covered the zucchini with hot brine and then processed in a hot water bath for 5 minutes to seal the jars. The firmer texture of the older squashes makes the processed ones nice and crunchy too. Thanks again Drew!

  5. Glad to hear! These truly are a wonderful pickle. Sharing has made me smile today. Joy.