Greenmarket Zucchini Pickles | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Greenmarket Zucchini Pickles

A glut of zucchini inspires one home cook to keep cool
Greenmarket Zucchini Pickles

The brine for these pickles will put you in touch with your roots. Lauren Rothman/JW

1-quart jar

15 min

Over Night

Facebook icon
Twitter icon

We’re nearly at the peak of summer, and for gardeners everywhere that means one thing: armfuls, overflowing buckets, even wheelbarrows full of zucchini and summer squash. Born of highly productive plants, these fruits range in shape and color from the recognizable slender, dark green variety to a host of yellow and pale green patty pan types. They’re a blessing and a curse for farmers, and by extension, home cooks. It’s a wonderful thing to reap such a full harvest, but, on the other hand, everybody else has to figure out how to use up all that zucchini before it goes bad.

For those of that like to do our shopping at the greenmarket, or who receive a weekly CSA share, our refrigerators are more than likely to be play host to quite a few types of squash over the coming weeks. Luckily, they’re an infinitely versatile ingredient: when small, they’re lovely shaved thin and tossed into a delicate salad; simmered with onions and garlic and then pureed with cool yogurt, they make an excellent chilled soup; and they stand up well to the heat of the summer grill. But for cooks who are tired of figuring out new ways to cook zucchini, I’d like to offer a novel suggestion: Don’t cook them. Pickle them.

Jews and pickles go together like pastrami and rye: I’m willing to bet quite a few of you have jars in your refrigerator right now. Most of us tend to buy our pickles, but the good news I’d like to relay is that it’s shockingly easy — plus cost-effective and fun — to make them at home. And while cucumber pickles are definitely the most well known and widely available, you can pickle most any fruit or vegetable, and zucchini pickles make an unusual and refreshing summertime complement to all manner of picnics and outdoor meals. Best of all, they’re ready in just a couple of days.

The recipe I’m sharing here relies on a saltwater, not a vinegar-based, brine. We Jews know saltwater pickles well: that’s how our beloved sours and half-sours are made. Historically speaking, vinegar pickles are a relatively recent invention, while salt pickling dates back to the beginning of recorded history (and likely before). It’s the most age-old method of keeping food fresh, predating, obviously, canning, refrigeration and freezing, and is certainly the method our ancestors used to create their dill pickles.

The use of zucchini, rather than cukes, gives this recipe for dill half- or full-sours — your choice, depending on how long the pickles ferment. Those options are a modern update, as is the use of mild green garlic, also omnipresent in greenmarkets right now. But if you can’t find it, can you can sub in traditional garlic. And the method couldn’t be simpler: cut zucchini, layer into a glass jar with flavorings, pour the brine over and let it sit. In two to four days, you’ll have delicious homemade pickles you’ll want to eat alongside a cold sandwich and some salty chips all summer long. Happily, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. And don’t worry if your pickle brine turns cloudy, with gray particles floating around in it. This is a natural result of lactic acid fermentation.

Nike Magista Obra Low

Special Equipment Needed:

1-quart (approx. 30 ounces) glass mason jar with screw-on lid; Pickle weight (see steps)


1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

3 medium zucchini or summer squash of uniform size, washed and quartered lengthwise

Small handful fresh dill, rinsed of any grit

2 cloves green garlic, peeled and smashed, or substitute ordinary garlic

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dill seeds

  1. 1. Sterilize your jar: in a pot, boil 1 quart water. Carefully pour the water into the glass jar, dribbling a little over the mouth of the jar to sterilize the whole thing. Let stand 30 seconds; pour out water. Set jar aside on a clean towel.
  2. 2. Prepare the brine: Bring 1/2 quart water to a boil with kosher salt. Turn off heat and add remaining 1/2 quart water to cool the mixture down.
  3. 3. Carefully insert zucchini spears into clean glass jar. When jar is about halfway full of zucchini, layer in the dill, red pepper and dill seeds. Continue to fill jar with zucchini spears until they fit snugly inside.
  4. 4. Pour cooled brine into jar, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Weight the pickles down so they don’t float to the top of the jar: I use a heavy stone the size of the mouth of the jar that I have boiled. Cover lid of jar with a square of cheesecloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Store jar in a cool, dark place such as a cabinet or a pantry.
  5. 5. After 2 days, taste pickles for sourness; if ready, wash the jar lid with hot, soapy water and rinse, then seal pickles and place in refrigerator. Pickles can be left to ferment for an additional few days to achieve desired sourness. Once stored in the fridge, eat within 2 months.