Learn how to preserve zucchini in the summer months to enjoy the fresh taste of zucchini all year round. Then head over to my post with 144+ ways to use zucchini for endless inspiration.
For many of us who have a garden, you know well enough that zucchini is a prolific producer.
There comes a time during the season when we run out of ideas and ways to use up all the zucchini coming in from the garden. We can only make so many batches of blueberry zucchini muffins (or more accurately, there's only so much baking one has time for during the harvest!)
This is why there's the joke that you must lock your car doors in the summertime, otherwise your neighbors will start leaving their extra zucchini in your car!
Ways to Preserve Zucchini
Not all preservation methods are safe when it comes to zucchini. I want to be sure to emphasize this because there are websites and even books out there that recommend pressure canning as a safe option.
I will never recommend unsafe preservation methods. Because of my passion for preserving, I've written a book called Everything Worth Preserving, which teaches the nine home food preservation methods to safely store delicious food for year-round eating.
The book includes all of my step-by-step tutorials, recipes, and easy-to-use charts. I teach you everything you need to know about cold storage (aka freezer), water bath/steam canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, freeze-drying, root cellar, infusion, and salt/curing.
Preserve food for a healthy well-stocked pantry & peace of mind, all in one resource. The book is available for pre-order now. Grab your copy (and FREE bonuses for pre-ordering) here.
Continue reading for my take on pressure canning zucchini, as well as the safe and tested methods for how to preserve zucchini.
When we talk about preservation techniques, I know many of our minds immediately go to canning.
However, in the mid-1990s, a university studied preserving zucchini (summer squash) and found that it got so mushy as it cooked down that it was too dense for the internal temperature to reach a high enough level to kill botulism spores.
Because of this, zucchini has been removed from the recommendations for food that can safely be pressure canned.
Canning safety and rules are something I follow wholeheartedly because I don't like to play around with people's safety, especially when it comes to botulism (read up on botulism dangers beyond canning, that you need to know).
The only way zucchini can be safely pressure canned is when it's combined with other foods, such as this Tomato with Zucchini recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP).
I like to cut my zucchini into rounds or cubes and then blanch and freeze them to toss into pasta sauce, soups, stews or stirfry.
I only blanch zucchini when it's in cubes or rounds, which stops the enzymatic process. When freezing shredded zucchini, I don't blanch them.
If you don't blanch your squash, the flavor and texture change. It's not bad, but it's just not as good as it can be when blanched first.
How to Freeze Zucchini
To freeze shredded zucchini, I simply squeeze out as much moisture as possible, measure exactly how much zucchini a recipe calls for and store it in that sized portion in a Ziplock freezer bag.
I then make a point to use up the shredded zucchini within a few months so the flavor is at its best.
Dehydrating is a great option for preserving zucchini. I have dehydrated both zucchini rounds as well as zucchini “zoodles”.
Fresh zucchini zoodles are incredible. If you want to dehydrate them, it's best to rehydrate them with some warm pasta sauce or another thick sauce. The texture remains a bit chewy, not like when fresh, but still good.
Zucchini freeze dries beautifully. I like to slice my zucchini into coins, soak them in a little bit of vinegar, drain it then add a bit of sea salt.
This makes for some healthy “chips” because they're nice and crunchy.
Another favorite is to sprinkle a little powdered dill and garlic salt then dehydrate.
As mentioned above, pressure canning zucchini on its own is out of the question, but what you can do is combine zucchini with other ingredients to change the pH of the recipe and make it safe for water bath canning.
One of my favorite canning recipes for zucchini is this mustard pickle recipe. The original recipe calls for cucumbers, but this happens to be one that is safe to substitute with zucchini.
Not all cucumber recipes can be safely changed to zucchini, but this one can.
This mustard pickle recipe has been handed down from my husband's great-grandma and holds a very special place in my heart. Unfortunately, her recipe called for flour, which isn't safe for canning, so I researched and found the right substitute ratios using Clear Gel.
It's a great cross between a pickle and a relish and we love it on hamburgers, hot dogs, and especially when mixed with potatoes and hard-boiled eggs for a delicious potato salad.
Some of the other canned zucchini recipes:
More Ways to Enjoy Zucchini
As I mentioned before, I have over 144 zucchini recipes to choose from, as well as more recipes in my book, Everything Worth Preserving.
But a couple of bonus ways I enjoy using up our zucchini is by fermenting them in slices, much like a regular fermented pickle. Though fermenting isn't considered a long-term preservation method for zucchini, it's incredibly delicious as a pickle stand-in!
Our very favorite way to enjoy those first few fresh zucchini that come out of the garden is to slice them in half, brush them with olive oil, sprinkled them with garlic salt, and grill. We then sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top while it's still hot and dip it in ranch dressing.
If you have some tested and safe preserved zucchini recipes, please drop them in the comments section so everyone can benefit!
More Posts You May Enjoy
- How to Harvest & Store Potatoes (w/out a Root Cellar)
- 10 Ways to Preserve Food at Home
- Tips for Home Food Preservation – Seasonal Preserving Each Month
- A Complete Guide to Home Food Preservation (What to do When You Can’t Find Canning Supplies)
- Home Food Preservation- Preserving Plan for a Year’s Worth of Food
- How to Store Home Canned Food Safely – Jar Stacking & Canning Rings
- 129+ Best Canning Recipes to Put Up This Year
- How Do You Know if a Canning Recipe is Safe
- How to Pick the Best Preserving Methods
- How to Convert Recipes for Canning + Safety Tips
- The Science of Home Food Preservation
- Planning and Preserving Q&A with Melissa
Melissa Norris: Hey pioneers, welcome to episode number 354 of The Pioneering Today Podcast. Today's episode, we are going to be diving into all things zucchini. Now you may be wondering like, "How on Earth are you going to do an entire podcast episode just on zucchini?" But for many of us who have a garden or you know anybody that has a garden, you know that zucchini is usually one of those vegetables that is just a prolific producer. And you get to a certain point in the season and you're like, "I don't know what to do with all of this zucchini."
There's a reason that there's funny jokes that go around and say, "Lock your car doors" when it comes to the middle of summertime, because your neighbors will try to sneak all of their extra zucchini into your car because they have way too much, and they don't know what to do with it. And for those of us who are home food preservers and/or wanting to become home food preservers, sometimes it can feel like we're a little bit limited with how we can safely preserve zucchini. And the reason for that or one of the reasons for that I should say is because when it comes to canning, and I'm just going to give a little brief encapsulation here on canning safety, I've got a ton of episodes.
And if you are wanting to learn more about canning, then I've got a lot of episodes that I will link to in the show notes and the blog posts that accompanies today's episode, because I know for a matter of fact, my friend, you are going to want to hit today's blog post to go get access to all of the zucchini recipes that I'm going to be laying out today, which you can go and find at melissaknorris.com/354. That's just the number 354, because this is episode number 354.
Now, before we dive fully into our episode all about things zucchini, today's podcast is sponsored by ButcherBox. And I don't know about you, but there is little less than I find more versatile and making a dish go from mm, to like, "Oh, so good than bacon." I mean, pair some zucchini with bacon, wonderful thing. But bacon often could be pretty expensive and it can be hard to find good quality bacon if you're not raising it yourself, which I'm always an advocate for. If you can raise it yourself, that's the best thing, if not, finding a local farmer.
But for many people, neither of those are actually options right now. So if you find yourself in that boat, the next best thing is going with a company like ButcherBox. It's delivered straight to your door, they partner with lots of other farms. And right now you can get bacon for life and $100 off. Sounds a little bit too good to be true, but I promise it's not. So ButcherBox is giving new members one pack of bacon for free and every box plus $20 off each box for the first five months of your membership. So that's free bacon for life and up to $100 off. You can go sign up and get this deal at butcherbox.com/pioneeringtoday, butcherbox.com/pioneeringtoday.
And I have tasted their bacon and it was really good. I've had excellent success with all of the meats that I've tried from them, including wild-caught seafood, as well as their organic chicken, and their pasture-raised heritage pork, as well as their beef. So highly recommend going in snagging that deal, but now back to our zucchini. So when it comes to home food preservation, I know a lot of us immediately think canning. It's one of the most popular, it creates shelf-stable, and I love canning. Mason jars are my love language. However, canning, if you're following updated safety canning guidelines, which by the way, a lot of these guidelines for using a pressure canner for non-acidic foods, and only doing water bath or steam canning for acidic foods.
These guidelines have actually been in place since the 1940s. A lot of people seem to think that pressure canning is a newer thing or a newer recommendation if comments on Facebook posts have are any indication, but it's not. These guidelines were actually established in the 1940s. It's just a lot of people didn't know them back then or weren't following them. However, there have been a few updates and additions, and one of those is on pressure canning zucchini. So in the mid-'90s, I believe it was 1994, there was some newer funding and some additional testing done on canning because there's not a lot of money to be made in home canning. And so there's not a lot of studies or updates done on it because companies only fund and do studies on things where they're likely to make a lot of money.
So there was some university and different testing that was done in the mid-1990s and zucchini specifically, which is a summer squash so this is for all summer squash, it was removed from the recommendations, and the updated guides for pressure canning zucchini all by itself in a jar. And the reason for that is because upon testing, which you can, well, imagine zucchini gets very mushy, and so it created a lot of density inside the jar even with pressure canning. And they found spots within the jars where it was so dense because it gets to be so mushy as it gets cooked inside the pressure canner when it's canning, that the heat couldn't penetrate adequately all the way through to ensure if there were any botulism spores that it was killed.
So canning zucchini or any summer squash in a jar by itself in a pressure canner was removed in the mid-'90s. Now, some people have older canning books they didn't know there was updated, et cetera, and some people just choose not to follow updated guidelines with canning. I, however; I'm not one of them, botulism is a neurotoxin, deadly neurotoxin at that. I'm not messing around with it when I know I've got tested times to ensure that I don't have that in my jar. So if you're curious more about learning about botulism, how it works with home food safety, et cetera, then you're going to want to go back and check out the episode I did number 351, which was Botulism Dangers Beyond Canning That You Need to Know.
So pressure canning a jar of zucchini is not something that is recommended or safe, but there are actually quite a few you different ways that you can can zucchini and do so quite safely. Now beyond canning of zucchini, of course, you can blanch and freeze zucchini, which I do with rounds to add into sauces or soups and stews. You can shred zucchini and freeze it for use in quick breads or muffins, or like my chocolate sourdough bread. Highly recommend you do some that way. And when I am shredding it, I don't blanch it first. I just shred, squeeze to get as much of the moisture out as possible, and then I use our vacuum sealer, and I go ahead and seal that up and I just freeze shredded zucchini as is.
But I do blanch it when I'm doing it in like rounds or chunks to stop enzymatic process. Now, when it comes to freezing, a lot of your vegetables is recommended to blanch them for just a few minutes before you freeze them. And the reason for that is because the enzymes just because they get frozen and are at deep cold temperatures in a deep freezer, doesn't stop the enzymes, only the blanching will. And over time, it actually changes the texture and can create some odd flavors. For example, I really didn't understand that process. And so I'm like, "Well, I don't need to blanch this butternut squash because I'm just going to freeze it. I'm going to be roasting. It it'll get fully done" so I skipped that part.
Well, three lengths in the deep freezer when I went to cook my first batch no matter how long I cooked it, it never became tender like roasted squash should. The squash was fine. It had just an off flavor, we just didn't enjoy it. It wasn't good and it's because I didn't blanch it. Then when I realized my mistake and recommended for a reason, I've always blanched when I have frozen our winter squash, and I've never had that problem since, it's always been delicious.
So blanching is something when it says this is recommended to blanch, that you should do, but in the shredded category of zucchini, I've not blanched it or had any issues. And we're diving deep into zucchini today. But if you haven't heard my new book, Everything Worth Preserving, is available for pre-order right now. Not only do you get the paperback copy, but you get the digital copy is an added bonus with some other really fun bonuses if you pre-order right now. And the digital copy will be in your inbox and your hot little digital hands, I should say, by the end of August.
The paperback's going to be a little bit longer. We're working with the printer and dealing with paper shortages, which is a real thing, but the printer's guaranteed by January, but we're hoping it may be a little sooner, but we don't want to promise that. So I highly recommend that you go and grab a pre-order copy of that book now while we're at the pre-order price, and get the digital copy because it has all of your vegetables and fruits and meat from A to Z. And just like I'm breaking down zucchini for you right now like what you need to know if you're going to freeze it, there's nine different ways that you can preserve food safely at home. And we cover all of them in alphabetical orders so you can go straight to zucchini. And it's listed out the ways that it can safely be preserved with notes, tutorials, charts, and recipes.
So imagine that for every fruit and vegetable and meat all in one book at your fingertips. You can see why we're saying Everything Worth Preserving, and you want to get your hands on it. So you can go to melissaknorris.com/preservingbook and you will be able to pre-order that right now. So back to this zucchini at hand. Freezing obviously is an option and I do do some of that with my zucchini. I will dehydrate zucchini. I have dehydrated zucchini zoodles where you're making them into a noodle format, and then dehydrate them, and then I just pour boiling water over them when I want to put like a pasta sauce over them.
I will say like fresh zucchini zoodles are a wonderful, I love that. In fact, a lot of times for lunch I will just saute a little bit of butter and garlic, and then lightly saute some zucchini zoodles, and then put some fresh graded Parmesan or other cheese on it, and just eat it like pasta. Oh my, it's so good. Sometimes I'll fry an egg and put it over top. Anyways, it's fabulous, but I dehydrate, but I found that when you're rehydrated the dehydrated zoodles, that it really needs to have something like a spaghetti sauce over it, or where it's really coated in like a thick sauce because it never quite rehydrates back the same as when it's fresh. It's still a little bit kind of chewier, no matter how I've tried rehydrating it from a dehydrated form.
Now still good and I will still do it, but like I said, like a white Alfredo sauce or like a spaghetti sauce, et cetera, tends to be the way that I like to eat it, not just like with a plain butter garlic sauce. Now, if you have a freeze dryer, zucchini freeze dries amazingly well. I like to just do slices of the zucchini and then I'll soak it a little bit of vinegar, and then drain it, and put some sea salt on there, and it makes zucchini chips. Because with a freeze dryer, they're very crunchy almost like a potato chip, but of course it's a zucchini.
I've also done instead of the vinegar and sea salt where I have just put like a little bit of powder dill on it, and a little bit of garlic powder and salt, and then freeze dried them that way, and made a different flavor type of chip chip. Oh, very, very good. So those are fun and I love just to have those as snacks. But canning, as I said, mason jars are my love language so we got to talk about the canning. Now, pressure canning just to jar a zucchini is out of the question, but there are a lot of other ways that you can safely can zucchini at home. And the first is in relishes and pickles.
So this is going to be your water bath steam canning options because when they're done in these specific recipes, they are acidic enough in order to safely water bath can. And one of my favorite recipes, I'm going to try to get through this story. I'm just going to preface this. I'm going to try to get through it without crying so bear with me. But my father-in-law when he found out that I can asked me to make him mustard pickles, I had never heard of mustard pickles. I'd never had mustard pickles. I had no idea what they were, but I'm like, "If you get me a recipe, I will make you mustard pickles, no problem."
Well, originally he had had them from his wife who is my husband's mom, my mother-in-law's grandmother and loved them. They were his favorite thing ever, but she passed away long before I came into the family. And we thought that the recipe passed away with her. Well, a few years went by and my husband's grandmother was going through her recipe books and low and behold found tucked in there a written out recipe for these mustard pickles. So she gave me the recipe and with my canning knowledge on safety went through it, and it called for using flour, and flour was removed from almost all.
You'll find a very few select recipes that will still safely call for flour, but overall, flour is not an ingredient that is safe to can with. It can cause uneven thick spots. And as we know, density is an issue. And so if you have two thick of spots, the heat can't get through there, and it poses a safety problem. The other problem is that initially flour will thicken, but when it goes through the process of canning, and then it sits on the shelf for a couple of months, it starts to break down, and it creates like this soggy, icky, non-desirable texture.
So it's kind of like an end product as well as a safety issue. So the recipe that she gave me called for flour, but I knew that was not a safe option. So I scoured through all of my canning books that were the up-to-dated canning books and methods and extension offices, et cetera, and was able to find a recipe with ratios using clear gel to produce a updated safe canning version of mustard pickles.
Now, when I first heard of mustard pickles, I was envisioning something like a garlic dill that just had like mustard in the brine or something, but that's not actually what the mustard pickles are. It's more of a mustard, chunky mustard relish. It's like a cross between pickles and a relish, but it is wonderful on hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches. But it also really shines if you make potato salad or a pasta salad, because it has the onions, the pickles, and the mustard all together with some other spices. You can just take boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, of course, peel the eggs and chopped up with the potatoes.
And then you just mix this in with some mayonnaise, but you don't have to chop your onions or your pickles or your mustard, it just makes making those side dishes a breeze. So I have been making this mustard pickle relish now for a number of years and have shared it on the website. It's also featured in the new book, Everything Worth Preserving, but it's now especially special to me. And a lot of you have recently heard about it because my father-in-law passed away a couple of weeks ago, and we were doing his memorial service, and we were serving food there. And so I went to the pantry to grab a few items to take down to the lunch that we were doing at his celebration of life.
And as I was grabbing things, my last jar of mustard pickles was on the pantry shelf, and so I took that out and I might have cried for a little bit, but I took my last jar down to serve it at his memorial, which felt very full circle as you can well-imagine. And I know now that I will never make mustard pickles again without thinking of him, and it will be an honor of his memory. So recipes to me have a way of connecting us to family, and keeping them alive, and honoring them. And I feel that they're a very strong connection. And so I hope one day my children, and my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren will make this mustard pickle recipe and remember a man that they never maybe even ... My children, of course will, but my grandchildren someday that they never got to meet this side of heaven.
So I will have to link to make this recipe because it is available on my website even though it's also in the book, Everything Worth Preserving. But part of the reason I wanted to share that story with you is because it is a recipe that you can safely sub in zucchini for the cucumbers. Now that is not true of all pickle recipes. So if it's a recipe specifically for cucumbers, and it's a pickling recipe, some you can sub in zucchini if the canning recipe and book specifically says so. And it will say so if you can and that means it's been tested with the zucchini to ensure safety.
So in this instance, mustard pickles can safely be done using zucchini in place of cucumbers so you can use either/or, but that's not the case for all of them. But there are quite a few relish recipes that can be made using zucchini in a pickling format, and that makes it safe. So that is one of them.
There's also a zucchini pineapple recipe. And as I said, we will have links to all of these recipes in the blog post and the show notes for today. But this is where you take cubed or shredded zucchini with already canned unsweetened pineapple juice, specific amount of bottled lemon juice, this is where you're making sure that acidity and sugar, and you do peel the zucchini in this particular recipe. You don't have to do in the mustard pickle recipe, but you are doing that with the pineapple one. And so it's a zucchini pineapple because zucchini, as you know, when you cook it will really take on the flavor of whatever it's paired with.
So that's where a lot of people will use zucchini in place of apple and make a mock apple pie with zucchini. And that's kind of what we're doing here with the zucchini pineapple. So it's stretching that pineapple and the zucchini when it's mixed with that, and the lemon juice and the sugar is going to be something that's very sweet. And so that can safely be water bath canned and/or in a steam canner.
Now savory when it comes to canning with zucchini, there are actually a couple recipes that you can do savory-wise, but there is another pickle recipe that can be done with zucchini, and that is for a pickled bread and butter zucchini. And again, we'll have all of these links in the blog post. You're going to want to make sure you hop over and grab them, but this is going to use your zucchini, onions, pickling salt, of course, and/or Redmond's real salt. I always use Redmond's real salt as a pickling salt with some vinegar, sugar, your mustard seed, celery seed, and turmeric.
So again, this is something that will be water bath canned because you've got that high enough ratio of vinegar in order to ensure acidity for safety. But tomatoes and zucchini, there is a recipe where you can water bath those together, and you can actually do it. The tomatoes can be done with okra or zucchini. So for those of us in a northern climate, I can't grow okra here, we're just not warm enough. I'll be using zucchini. But if you have okra, then this is a recipe that the zucchini can be subbed in safely for the okra.
So this is where you're going to have your tomatoes. The tomatoes is skin removed, very important for the safety here on this recipe that the skin is moved from the tomatoes, and then you're going to slice or cube the zucchini. And then you're going to gently, you're going to boil the tomatoes, and then you add in and gently boil the zucchini with the tomatoes for five minutes. So first you're going to boil the tomatoes for 10 minutes, then you're going to add in the zucchini, and do an additional five minutes at a gentle boil. And then you're going to go ahead and put those in the jars, but this is where it's important.
This is not a water bath recipe and you can also add four or five pearl onions or two onions slices, it's very specific on the amount of onions to each jar for this, and then it's pressure canned. So this is one instance that you actually can safely pressure can zucchini because it's with other specific ingredients, and it's just not an entire jar full of zucchini. Now, of course, these are preserving methods. I have also fermented zucchini. I have done fermented slices of zucchini very similar like you would do a pickle, but I fermented it, and we enjoyed that. That worked very well.
So this does give you some versatility to use up that zucchini and preserve it to take and have throughout the winter months. Now with the shredded zucchini, I have a couple, as I said, favorite recipes that can be done either with the frozen shredded zucchini that you're then, of course, thawing, or if you happen to have fresh zucchini and you want to make sure that you're eating that up too. And so I will make sure and link for you, I have a blueberry zucchini muffin recipe that people adore. They make it and their kids go crazy over it, and it's one of their absolute favorite muffin recipes.
And then I also for my chocolate lovers out there, yes, I'm with you, friends. I have a double chocolate zucchini bread that you can also do as a cake that is amazing. And then I also will pair it and work it in with a chocolate sourdough recipe. So for those of you who've got sourdough and need to be baking and using up some of that discard, I've got you covered there. So we'll make sure and link to all of those recipes in the blog post for today. There's a ton of recipes to be had, but now you have got some wonderful ways to use up that zucchini harvest that I hope is coming on strong and prolific for you.
We happen to harvest our very first zucchini at the time of this recording. It's the very first week of August. We're really late, we had a nice, I don't know about nice, but a very long, cool, cold, wet spring and summer finally warmed up enough the garden is starting to grow and produce, and we got our first zucchini. But I have to tell you, the first zucchini, the way that we eat that one is get it when it's still on the smaller side. And then either half it length-wise and/or quarter it depending on how large it is, and then grill it.
Just brush a little bit of olive oil on it with a little bit of garlic salt, grill it until tender, turn it a few times, and then dip it in a little bit of ranch. You can sprinkle a little bit of Parmesan cheese on it right when it comes off the grill so it's cool enough to handle. Oh, my husband and I eat by the plateful. That is our absolute favorite way to eat zucchini. It sounds so simple, but it is so delicious. Half the time it's not even appetizer or a side. I swear we could just eat it for an entire meal. So there you have it, all of the ways, my favorite ways to eat zucchini fresh, as well as preserve that wonderful vegetable up to have all year long. So until next week, blessings and mason jars for now, my friends.
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