If you are like me, you are thinking about what to grow in your vegetable garden this year. Maybe you’ve already ordered all of your seeds, or like me, are doing it in batches. We’ve got most of it ordered, some already received, but still have some decisions to make for the rest.
The subject of zucchini came up the other day. How many plants do we want? We have an amazing harvest last year. Evidently so did most of the region, as we got truckloads upon truckloads to feed to the critters, too. By the end of the season, even covering them up with yogurt wouldn’t get them eaten. The sheep hung in a little longer than the pigs, but by the end of the summer, we were all DONE!
It got me to do lots of new things to preserve them, though. As I sit hear snacking on curry-flavored zucchini chips, I’m thinking that several of these new things are keepers.
- Slice them length-wise with a mandolin and dry in the dehydrator. This is quick to do during your busy season. We pick ones that are the same width as our mandolin and fill up all dozen trays of our deydrator. It usually takes about 12 hours to dry them. Then we put into plastic bags that we seal on our vacuum sealer. (We found zip bags inadequate at keeping them dry during the summer -- rotting zukes is one of the most disgusting smells around, just for the record. Vacuum seal or freeze. Trust me.) All winter I’ve been adding those strips to things like lasagna and potato gratins. If I cook noodles of some flavor, I’ll add a handful of zuke strips to the pot as well.
- Slice into rounds and flavor with spices, salt, pepper. Again, we use the mandolin to quickly slice up the zukes. Then put the slices into a big bowl and toss with the spice mixture. I did curry powder this year for one batch. Chili powder on another. Garlic and onion powder on another. Then spread them out of the dehydrator sheets and let them dry until they are crispy. Store in a vacuum sealed bag or in the freezer. I use canning jars in the freezer. We nibble on them like chips all year long. I like them with a little sour cream dip, but Frank likes them straight out of the bag. I like to take them in the truck with me when I have a long drive to make. It keeps me from stopping somewhere and buying crap. (Oh, a couple of times when I was doing a bread crumb / parm cheese topping, I whirred up some zuke chips in the food processor and added them to the mix. Yummy topping on mac and cheese, tuna casserole.)
- Shred on a box grater. Every year, I do at least a dozen gallon size freezer bags filled with zuke shreddings. I shred onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. I cover it about an inch thick all over, then stick it into the freezer over night. The next day, I break it up and pack into gallon plastic bags. It makes it really easy to grab cup fulls as I need them for quick breads. I’ll add handfuls to regular yeasted bread sometimes, too. Also, chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, brownies, chocolate cake. It’s good promise! Zucchini goes really well with chocolate, or cinnamon, really. I like zucchini muffins and bread, too. Oh, and meatloaf. I almost always add a cup or two to meatloaves, and it makes them so moist and yummy. And we have an orzo and zucchini dish that was featured in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that works really well with both fresh and frozen shredded zucchini. It’s additively good.
- Puree and freeze. I roughly chop up cubes of zucchinis until I fill my biggest crockpot. Turn it on high, and after about two hours, hit it with your stick blender. I fill pint size canning jars and pressure-can. I use this mixture when I’m making soups all winter. It goes really well in potato soups, both regular white potatoes but also surprisingly well with sweet potatoes, too. It’s a quick way to thicken beef and lamb stews, too.
Even after going through all of that, I think I’m only going to plant a few plants this year. Last year was a bit much!