The French and Americans may call them courgettes but most Australians have adopted the Italian name zucchini for these prolific summer miniature squash of the cucurbitaceace family (also known as the Gourd family). Native to North America, cucurbita are well traveled and began to appear in the botanical herbals of Europe some 50 years after Christopher Columbus epic voyage and discovery of the Americas in 1492. Ever since they were introduced into Australia by the Italian’s in the 1950’s, the zucchini has been embraced for its delicate flavour and versatility.
Today the zucchini is ubiquitous with summer and vegetable gardeners know they must remain vigilant and constantly pick them to keep the vigorous growth under control. Within just a few days what was considered to small to pick one day is transformed into a supersized beast only to be relegated to the soup pot, chicken coup or to be stuffed and oven roasted.
Every kitchen has a favourite recipe, be it the humble zucchini bake or frittata, zucchini lasagne, or sauteed, baked, steamed or licked by the flames of the BBQ. For others it’s zucchini exotica - served as a carpaccio or where the elegant zucchini flower, the star attraction, is filled with goat’s cheese and savoury herbs.
Pickled zucchini is one of my favorite and best of all large quantities can be dealt with quickly and then enjoyed many months after the summer sun has faded. Serve with cheese and biscuits, as part of an anti - pasta platter, on the buffet table or on a ploughman’s lunch: preserved zucchini will be always be a highlight on the table.
Pick them while they approximately 4 cm in diameter and if need be collect over a couple of days and store in the fridge until you have enough to make a batch.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time : 10 minutes
Marinating time: 2 x 2 hours
No of servings : 8 x 600ml jars
2kg small zucchini
4 small onions
½ cup sea salt
2 teaspoons turmeric
4cups white wine vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 teaspoons mustard powder
Sterilise sealable glass jars and lids
- Wash zucchini and trim off ends and any damaged areas.
- Cut evenly into slices 3 to 5mm.
- Peel and quarter onions and slice thinly.
- Combine zucchini and onion into a bowl.
- Cover with salt and cold water and stand for two hours. This is known as the brining process.
- After 2 hours, pour sliced zucchini and onions into a colander and allow to drain for approximately 10 minutes to remove as much of the salty water (brine) as possible.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a pot and then bring to the boil.
- Pour over drained zucchini while hot.
- Marinate zucchini and spiced liquid for another two hours.
- After two hours bring zucchini and liquid to the boil and simmer gently until zucchini is just cooked but still crisp, approximately 5 minutes depending upon the thickness of the sliced zucchini.
- Pack hot zucchini into sterilised sealable jars and fill with liquid to 5mm from the top.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to cool. Seal with lid.
- Label and store in dry cool place for 3 to 6 months.
- Select small evenly sized zucchini’s for the best result. While larger zucchini’s can be used, they will need to be cut into smaller pieces. The pickles will have s similar flavour, but larger zucchini’s will create a more rustic appearance.
- Slice the zucchini and onions as evenly as possible. Variations will not only affect the visual appearance it will also affect the cooking time. This may result in some slices becoming mushy while other are undercooked.
- Use good quality vinegar and sea salt. Do not use table salt as it contains iodide, stabilisers and chemicals to prevent it from caking. These chemicals will affect the appearance of your pickles.
- Do not overcook the zucchini, the hot vinegar solution will continue to cook the mixture after it has been bottled until it is completely cooled.
- Always allow a couple of weeks for the pickle flavours to marry together before eating.
- A great accompaniment to a buffet, or served with cheese and biscuits. It will disappear quickly.