Often in late summer or early fall, I find myself with an abundance of zucchini, more than my family can eat at that time. The zucchini plants I grow tend to produce overly large fruits, often 2 or 3 feet long. That leaves me with much more squash than I can eat.
When faced with surplus, I do what many gardeners do and preserve the harvest to use in the winter.
Yes, one can make pickled zucchini, but pickling can be a lot of work. Pickled foods may or may not be to everyone’s liking, and are not as versatile as unseasoned vegetables. An alternative to pickling is low-acid canning, which is even more work than regular canning. Low-acid canning must be done at a high pressure following very specific instructions. And without pickling, non-acid foods (like most vegetables) must be canned using the specific guidelines for low-acid food.
So I save my excess by freezing my zucchini.
The easiest way to freeze zucchini, especially if it is large, is to grate the squashes. I freeze the grated zucchini in small, usable quantities to use during the winter. In the past month or so, I’ve frozen about 25 cups of grated zucchini to use later in the winter. The grated zucchini has yet another advantage: my sometimes picky children will eat it shredded and mixed into dishes where they can’t easily see it.
You can use a box grater for this job, but it is much, much easier if you have a food processor. This is especially true if you have a large quantity of zucchini collected from the garden, like I did.
To start, if the zucchini are large, I cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. I then cut the zucchini squashes into pieces small enough to fit into the feed tube of my food processor. When the food processor bowl is full, I divide the grated squash flesh into measured 1- or 2-cup portions. I seal each portion in a small freezer bag, such as those made by Ziploc or Glad. I press the bags down to remove any excess air, and then seal them closed. For added protection against freezer burn, I sometimes double-bag by placing the small ziploc bags inside a larger one-gallon bag.
Be sure to label and date all your produce. Otherwise, you’ll find a packet in the bottom of the freezer and wonder whether your vegetables are from this year or the previous one.
If you have small zucchini or prefer not to grate it, you may slice the zucchini and freeze the slices in bags. Some people prefer to freeze sliced fruits and vegetables on a large tray rather than in bags. But I lack the space for this procedure, and it’s a lot more work.
Freezing and thawing zucchini does alter the texture. Frozen and thawed zucchini is much softer than that bought fresh at the store. Therefore, frozen zucchini will not be suitable for crudites.
I cook with my packets of frozen zucchini much as I would use the fresh squash. Shredded or sliced zucchini works well in vegetarian chili, stews, and other moist dishes. Shredded zucchini can also be sauteed with olive oil and garlic. If you’ve sliced your zucchini and frozen it, you can cook it in a steamer and serve it buttered. If I’m adding packets of shredded zucchini to soups, tomato sauce, chili, or stews, I don’t bother to thaw it before I add it to the pot.
I also like to make zucchini bread from my shredded zucchini, which I soften in the microwave before adding it to the batter. Frozen and thawed shredded zucchini can be somewhat watery. But I find that if I add the zucchini and its water to the recipe, the bread will bake up just fine. My trick is to freeze pre-measured portions specifically for baking into zucchini bread so that I won’t be struggling to measure out a mess later. My zucchini bread recipe, which makes 2 loaves, calls for 2 cups of zucchini. So I measure out and bag 2-cup portions of fresh zucchini to use in baking.
3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 T. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
2 T. pumpkin pie spice
2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
2 c. grated zucchini, frozen and thawed, with liquid
2 t. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat eggs until light. Stir in sugar, oil, zucchini, vanilla. Add the dry ingredients. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans or 2 greased muffin tins (24 standard-sized muffins). Bake 1 hour for loaves of bread, or 20-25 minutes for muffins, until tops of loaves/muffins are browned and a toothpick comes out clean.