Zucchini is one of those plants that tend to overrun you with the harvest. One minute, it looks as if you might not have a harvest at all and you’re agonizing over having to purchase zucchini at the farmer’s market. The next minute, you find zucchinis everywhere, hiding under leaves. Each day, there is a new one, and pretty soon, you’re dropping them off on your neighbor’s doorstep because you have so many!
Sound familiar? It happens to me each year. My kids and husband only enjoy zucchini bread and muffins so many times. I can only make zucchini so many ways before they start to beg for it to end. So, the solution is finding ways to preserve zucchini.
You can preserve your zucchini harvest in a few methods – freezing, canning, dehydrating, and fermenting. Let’s take a look at those methods and how you can preserve your harvest in 1 day!
Batch Steps – The Key to Large-Scale Preserving
When you are faced with a dozen or more zucchini, the thought of preserving everything at one time can be daunting. I have one key for you – batch steps, and this key makes a huge difference.
I learned about “batching” a few months ago, and I’ve found several ways to apply it in my life. Preserving happens to be one of those ways. Essentially, when you batch, you focus on one general task at a time. In this case, we are going to break down the steps into general tasks that are the same for each project and do it all at one time.
Cutting the zucchini is the most tedious task that you need to complete, especially if you have a large number of zucchinis. Here is what I do.
1. Plan How You Will Preserve
This step will be individual. You may not have a dehydrator, or you may hate pickles. But, you need to know all of the ways you want to preserve the zucchini.
2. Pick the Recipes
I try to pick recipes with similar or the same ingredients. I love zucchini bread and butter pickles, and I make relish with the same pickle recipe. The only decision is how I slice the zucchini. Pinterest gives me the most inspiration.
3. Figure Out the Slices
This year, I preserved my zucchini in several ways. I froze shredded zucchini for bread and muffins. Then, I dehydrated zucchini chips. We pickled zucchini slices and relish, canned zucchini salsa, and fermented zucchini spears. It sounds like a lot, but there are three types of cuts – grated, slices, and spears. Take a look at how much you need for each recipe or plan to determine how much you need to cut of each type. For example, I need 10 cups of zucchini slices for each batch of pickles.
4. Start Cutting
Now that you know how you want to cut your zucchini, it’s time to get started. I clear off my kitchen table, turn on a few homesteading podcasts, and get going! It’s the longest process, but I use it as a time to listen to audiobooks or learn new things.
5. Start Dehydrating First
After slicing, I always start dehydrating first. Why? It’s the longest process (aside from fermenting) that will require me to pay attention. So, I seasoned some of the slices for chips and placed in the dehydrator. You can dehydrate in your oven as well by setting the temperature low, around 170 degrees F.
6. Fermenting Should Be Second
Fermenting is so easy; that’s why I love it so much. Aside from releasing air occasionally and taste testing, it’s fairly hands-off. You can ferment however you want. Some people like to ferment shredded zucchini, but that wasn’t my plan. I already had the spears ready, so I washed the jars, placed in the spears, poured in the brine, and closed the jars. The second method is done!
7. Put Away in the Freezer
I like to freeze shredded zucchini in one to two cup portions. You can also freeze in cubes.
To freeze shredded zucchini, cut the ends off and either run through a food processor or use a grater. Put the shredded zucchini into a muslin fabric or towel, and squeeze. You want to remove the excess water! Then, use a measuring cup to store in the portions you desire in Ziploc bags.
To freeze in cubes, it’s a good idea to blanch because it deactivates the enzymes that turn it discolored or mushy. So, blanch for a minute, and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Flash freeze the cubed zucchini, and then put into a large Ziploc bag for soups and casseroles later.
How you plan to freeze your zucchini is your decision. This year, we chose not to use cubes, but if you do,
8. Start Canning Recipes
It’s important to note that the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) doesn’t recommend canning zucchini.Squashes are a low-acid vegetable that requires pressure canning. However, the length of canning time required to kill the bacteria is unknown. Cubed zucchini will turn mushy and shrink in size if pressure canned.
So, the best way to safely can your zucchini is to pickle them or add them to your salsa! When I make zucchini pickles and relish, I use the same recipe for both. I love bread and butter pickles!
I start off with two stockpots, and I make sure to get my water boiling in the water bath canner. It’s time to heat up the kitchen! I place the slices of zucchini in one stockpot and the shredded in another. If I am making zucchini salsa, I may have a third pot going as well!
I add the necessary ingredients. Both require many of the same things such as sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, turmeric, and celery seeds. Once all of the ingredients are in the pots and start to cook, I take this time to prepare the jars for filling.
After cooking down, I fill the jars of both pickles and relish. Then, I can them. It may take a few batches, but this time is used to clean up the mess I created in the kitchen and perhaps put a loaf of zucchini bread in the oven. Soon, the countertop has rows of sparkling jars cooling down.
Does preserving your zucchini harvest in 1 day sound daunting? It truly isn’t when I use the batch method and focus on the tasks ahead. I spent six hours one day and filled an entire shelf in my pantry with jars of pickles and dehydrated zucchini chips.