This hasn’t been one of the greatest years for Nova Scotia gardens. Our wet, cool weather has meant that my lettuce is still showing no signs of going to seed (unthinkable for middle of August!) but that crops that appreciate a bit of sun are a little depressed. My few tomato plants that have managed to survive early blight are taking a lot longer to grow, and although there are plenty of flowers on my pepper and cucumber plants, there’s not too much actually growing on them yet. I’ve seen a few vendors at the markets with pickling cukes, but a lot of the farmers who grow them outside aren’t having too much luck with them either. No sun, no cukes!
Good thing for us that zucchini are a great substitute for cucumbers in pickles!
Well…. let me clarify this a bit. You only want to use pickling cucumbers – the small, thicker skinned, more dense cucumber – for baby dills and other whole-cucumber pickles. You can only find pickling cucumbers this time of year, which keeps your pickling window of opportunity quite small! Thinner skinned veggies like zucchini and English cucumbers are easier to find for a longer period of time, and still make pretty good relish and bread and butter pickles. They do require a bit of extra work to pickle, though!
Our recent class on pickles included both zukes and cukes to highlight the techniques for using cut veggies in pickles. Any kind of bread and butter type pickle, relish, or even green tomato chow and mustard pickles will require you to cut your veggies, and then to soak them in a salt brine for at least one hour, but preferably a little longer. The salt draws out the moisture from the sliced veggies, which will help ensure that they maintain some of their texture in the finished product. If you skip the salting step, you’ll be left with a mushy product.
In our canning class last week, we only had time to let our veggies soak for an hour, which still made for a marathon pickling session! We made zucchini relish, curried bread and butter pickles, and a small batch of dill slicer pickles – all in three and half hours. Of course, we also managed to have some wonderful conversations about local food, CSAs, fair trade products, and about our earliest food memories. Ah, nothing like canning with a bunch of (new) friends!
Here are the recipes we used on our zukes and cukes class. (For a great dill pickle recipe, you can check out the ‘comment’ fields in our post on dilly beans: https://adventuresinlocalfood.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/dilly-beans/#comments )
4 medium zucchini (about 1 ¼ pound) finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
½ sweet red pepper, finely chopped
½ sweet green pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp pickling salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 tsp each dry mustard and celery seeds
½ tsp each hot pepper flakes and turmeric
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp cornstarch
Toss together zucchini, onions and red and green peppers in a large non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with salt and stir well. Let stand for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Drain vegetables in a sieve and rinse; drain again, pressing out excess moisture.
- Combine drained vegetables, sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery seeds, hot pepper flakes and turmeric in large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Blend water and cornstarch. Stir into vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes or until liquid clears and thickens, stirring often.
- Remove hot jars from canner and ladle relish into jars to within ½ inch of rim. Process 10 minutes for ½ pint jars and 15 minutes for pint jars.
** This is a great recipe to use those large zucchini that surprise you in the garden – if the core of the squash has gotten seedy, just cut out the centre before you start chopping.
Curried Bread and Butter Pickles – makes 4-pint jars (500ml) or 2 quart jars (1 l)
2 quarts (8 cups) diagonally sliced zucchini or cucumbers (combo of yellow and green is nice)
4 small onions, sliced
1 Tbsp pickling or canning salt
2 ½ cups cups cider vinegar
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp. pickling spice
In a glass or stainless steel bowl, layer zucchini slices with pickling salt. Add cool water to cover, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Transfer to a colander placed over a sink and drain zucchini. Rinse with cool running water and drain thoroughly.
- In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, curry powder, pickling spice, mustard seeds, and celery seeds. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until spices have infused he liquid. Stir in zucchini.
- Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Pack zucchini into hot jars to within a generous ½ inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Centre lid on jar, Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
- Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre. Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood
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