Greenmarket Zucchini Pickles
The brine for these pickles will put you in touch with your roots. Lauren Rothman/JW
active: 15 min
total: Over Night
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.