So how do I love zucchini? Oh, let me count the ways. We can probably all agree that Elizabeth Barrett Browning was absolutely not thinking of zucchini when she wrote her famous Sonnets from the Portuguese. However, who could not be inspired by it. And so this sonnet led me to think of all the ways I love zucchini. Why? Because I needed to figure out how to put to good use the second delivery of freshly picked from the garden zucchini I received this weekend (this time it came with a loaf of freshly made zucchini bread). If my neighbors were turning their gifts of zucchini into bread, I had to take the making of zucchini bread off the list as I could not inundate them with even more zucchini bread (Well, I could if I were in a competitive mode and wanted to be the baker of the best zucchini bread. Decided it was best to temper my competitive spirit, at least for the moment).
If summer is all about burgers on the grill and sandwiches packed for the beach, then what better use for the zucchini than zucchini pickles to give burgers and sandwiches a little bit of sweet crunch! If you love bread and butter pickles or are looking for a change of pace from dill pickles, then you will love Zuni Cafe's zucchini pickle recipe. I would describe these pickles as having a very similar flavor to bread and butter pickles.
However, if you are someone who has been reluctant to make pickles because you thought it required all sorts of canning equipment and hours of slaving over the stove, well I have a surprise for you. The making of these pickles is so easy that you might find yourself going to the farmer's market more often this summer (unless of course you are fortunate enough to be the recipient of pounds and pounds of zucchini). It is quite possible these pickles will make you a little bit of celebrity at your family barbecues this summer (not that you are someone who likes to receive any attention for the dish you bring or have even a slight competitive spirit).
It only takes one pound of zucchini and one small yellow onion to make a batch of the pickles. Look for the smaller or 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter zucchini as they will make for a more beautiful pickle. The oversized zucchinis are best used for breads or cakes where this vegetable is grated. Choose a yellow or Vidalia onion, but please know that red or white onions will not work here.
The original recipe called for cutting the zucchini into 1/16 inch slices, however, I wanted these pickles to have a little more substance so I cut them to 1/8 inch. The slicing is made easier with a mandoline but a great sharp knife, steady hands and a good eye works just as well.
The onions are thinly sliced as well. As it was just one little yellow onion that needed slicing, a knife worked perfectly.
Once the zucchini and onions are sliced and placed in large glass bowl (you do not want to use a metal bowl here), sprinkle with two tablespoons of Kosher salt. Adding a few ice cubes and enough cold water to cover them, they marinate for about an hour. After an hour, check to see if the zucchini are slightly softened. Mine were perfect after an hour.
The zucchini and onions are drained, patted dry and then placed in clean glass bowl. I like to use one of the oversized pyrex measuring cups here as it makes it easy to pour the brine in the jars. In the last 10 minutes of vegetables marinating in the salt bath, you can begin making the brine. Cider vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric are combined in a small saucepan. This mixture is simmered for about 3 to 4 minutes (until the sugar dissolves) and then set aside. The mixture should be warm but not hot (as you will cook the vegetables) when poured over the zucchini and onions.
After the brine is poured over the vegetables, you gently stir to ensure all of the spices are evenly distributed. Using a fork, fill jars with the zucchini and onions. Pour the brine into the jars, seal and put into the refrigerator. Allow the pickles to remain in the refrigerator for 24 hours for their flavors to fully develop and for the brine to become a beautiful chartreuse. Like the sonnets written by Browning, these zucchini pickles could easily become a timeless classic.
Zucchini Pickles (slight adaptation of a recipe from Zuni Cafe)
1 pound zucchini (choose ones at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter), sliced to 1/8 of an inch
1 small yellow onion or Vidalia, very thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1. Combine the sliced zucchini and onion in large, but shallow glass bowl. Add salt and toss to fully distribute. Add a few ice cubes and enough cold water to cover. Then stir to dissolve the salt. Allow to sit for 1 hour.
2. After 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini, it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.
3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and summer for at least 3 minutes (until sugar is dissolved). Set aside until just warm to the touch (if brine is too hot it will cook the vegetables making them soft instead of crisp).
4. Return the zucchini and onions to dry bowl. Pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices.
5. Transfer pickles to jars. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 day to allow flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini.
Almost all of the houses in the town I live in are surrounded by beautiful stone fences (walls) built, in some cases, more than two centuries ago and still standing the test of time. I continue to be mesmerized by the beauty and endurance of these stone fences each time I am cycling or driving. But there is another fence I see every day that causes me to take pause. If there is such a thing as a fence being both elegant and beautiful, then the ornate iron fence with two iron gates going the length of the front of a rather large old house, would be it. And if the iron fence wasn't its' own work of art, the remaining three sides of the house are surrounded by deep stone walls. Like the stone fences, this iron fence has also stood the test of time, reflecting a bygone era of incredible craftsmanship. When walking by this fence I have been known to momentarily feel like I have time traveled back to a different century as it has that much of a presence.
It is the endurance of both stone and iron fences that makes them even more beautiful, more amazing on so many different levels. Does anyone really know when they create something whether or not it will endure? Does anyone think endurance is still important in the creation process? Did Elizabeth Barrett Browning think that the sonnets she had written more than 150 years ago would be ones still read, still loved? Who knows, but quite possibly. Every once in awhile you get lucky enough to get involved in a project that you know is bigger than yourself and all of the people involved in it. You know this because it has all of the hallmarks of becoming a legacy. There is a certain amount of incredible energy (expended energy and created energy) that comes with being involved in such a project. Because on some unspoken level you have the sixth sense that every obstacle, every challenge, and every conflict in the project needs to be overcome. Yes, if you are lucky enough to be involved in such a project, you learn to appreciate even more the values of endurance, commitment, and persistence. Not just at a project's beginning, but long past its' completion.