(Farm and Dairy) – It doesn’t take long to become overrun with squash and zucchini. Even with just a few plants, there’s more than you can eat just weeks after they start producing fruits.
Incidentally, my yellow squash and zucchini plants are in overdrive. And while I love fried squash and zucchini slices, sautéed squash and zucchini in garlic butter and zucchini bread, I can only eat so much before it starts going bad.
Even after sharing with friends, family and neighbors, we’re going to have an abundance of squash and zucchini. It’s time to start considering some preservation techniques.
Preserving squash and zucchini can be tricky because they are not highly acidic and they contain a high moisture content.
Canning squash and zucchini
Squash and zucchini must be preserved using a pressure canner because they have a pH above 5.0. Safely canning any low acid food requires a pressure canner to ensure temperatures high enough to destroy Clostridium botulinum spores that produce a dangerous toxin.
However, processing squash and zucchini at such high temperatures in a pressure canner would compact them and create an undesirable mush. It will also take longer to process the food because of its tendency to become compacted. For these reasons, canning is only recommended under special circumstances.
Adding acidic vegetables. Adding tomatoes to squash or zucchini to increase the acidity within each canning jar can cut down on the time it takes to process in the pressure canner and produce a more desirable end result.
Pickling. Pickling summer squash and zucchini is another option. Adding vinegar to pickle squash and zucchini increases acidity and sugar helps firm the product and keep it crisp. Calcium chloride can be added in small amounts to ensure more crispness. Pickled squash and zucchini can be processed in a boiling water canner or an atmospheric steam canner.
Making relishes. Summer squash and zucchini can safely be canned as an ingredient in a relish. Can be processed in a boiling water canner or an atmospheric steam canner.
Freezing Squash and zucchini
Because of their high moisture content squash and zucchini can be tricky to freeze. Larger ice crystals are able to form on squash and zucchini as they freeze, which damages cell structures and causes them to release excess moisture when they thaw. Freezing and thawing can cause squash and zucchini to lose their firmness and become watery.
Although it can be challenging to ensure a quality product via freezing squash and zucchini, it’s not impossible. These best practices can help:
- Blanch or steam blanch squash and zucchini before freezing to reduce enzyme reactions.
- Cool and drain the product quickly after blanching.
- Blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Prevent squash and zucchini pieces from sticking together and reduce freezing time by freezing food on a tray. This will also reduce thawing time when cooking, which reduces the amount of time for fluid to flow out of cell walls and squash and zucchini to break down and become mushy. After individual pieces are frozen they can be stored together in a freezer bag.
- Squash and zucchini freeze well when presoaked in a casserole. The starchy foods in the dish will absorb the water when it thaws.
- Zucchini bread also freezes well wrapped in heavy-duty foil or plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag.
- Grated zucchini for baking can be portioned and stored in the freezer for later use. Steam blanch grated zucchini. Then split into portions for individual recipes and store in containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool containers in cold water before sealing and freezing. When thawed for use dump any excess liquid before using.
Drying squash and zucchini
Squash and zucchini are also difficult to dry because of their high moisture content. However, they can be cut into thin slices, dried and used as chips. Just be sure to follow these rules:
- Store in an air-tight container.
- Refrigerate or freeze soon after drying.