Attack of the Killer Zucchinis, part I: Blanch and freeze
When you have a veggie garden, taking a 2 week late-summer vacation means one of three things:
1. you come home to a garden full of overripe rotting vegetables and lament and wail over your lost harvest, because the combination of your work schedule and this year’s particular climate vagaries meant that you missed the whole of the critical window
2. you come home to a neatly harvested garden, because all the neighbors you begged to come back there and pick the squash and veggies while you were gone actually did, and there are still a few tomatoes and squash left there for you to pick and eat. (This almost never happens, in my experience.)
3. you come home and see from your bedroom window that wonder of wonders it was cool enough while you were gone that your lovely big harvest of tomatoes is just coming ripe as you arrive…but as you step into the backyard, colander in hand, to pick them, you are attacked by about 7 giant green cylinders which come at you like huge “That’s Amore”-singing bludgers and prevent your even entering the yard.
Hyperbole aside, we were blessed/cursed with option 3. I shouldn’t be complaining–I did indeed get that lovely tomato harvest, and we’ve been just eating them sliced and raw for days; none of them will probably even make it into the freezer for winter. (Next year I’ll plant more.) But out there amidst the squashes were about seven of the most enormous zukes I’ve ever seen. (That’s our 23lb wiener dog trying to defeat the mutant ninja zuke.)
This is not necessarily a bad thing–but once they’re that big, “normal” plans for eating them have to shift a good bit, at least if one is looking for flavor and tenderness. Big zucchinis get tough skins, tougher seeds, and sort of flavorless flesh–that beautiful delicate flavor of the early summer baby zukes is a thing of the past by now.
So hopefully I will now commence a series of posts with chronicles of what I decided to do with all this enormous squash.
Now, while the universal bright-faced advice, “Make zucchini bread!” is always well-meant, I’m not sure the people delivering it quite understand what we’re dealing with here. A typical 2-loaf zucchini bread recipe takes about two cups of grated/shredded squash. Last night I grated one of these monsters, not even one of the two biggest, in my food processor and came up with just under two quarts of grated zucchini. At eight loaves per squash, I could be my own personal bake sale if I actually did this. Therefore I will probably only include a zuke bread recipe in here if I can find or develop one that involves very little oil and at least 3-4 cups of the squash.
So, the easiest way to at least deal with the stuff in short order and not have it go rotten on you is to grate, blanch, and freeze it. (Opinions differ on the necessity of blanching; some folks say you can just grate it, throw it in ziplocs, and toss it in the freezer for a few months. Others disagree. Do your own research on this.) You can find the process at any number of websites, but basically it’s this:
- Have one huge pot of boiling water on the stove; another huge container of ice water somewhere nearby
- Cut your zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the tough middle seeds; discard or compost
- Grate/chop/dice squash as desired
- Drop squash into water at full boil; leave in about 60-90 seconds for grated, 90-120 for diced; it should be a little translucent
- Transfer squash to ice water container to quickly stop the cooking; leave it there for a couple of minutes
- Drain (squeeze excess water out)
- Freeze in 1 cup sized portions, for easy use in recipes
This way, all winter you can add the grated zucchini to soups, pasta sauces, zucchini bread, veggie-burgers, what-have-you. Not terribly creative, but very practical!