Zucchini Relish, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Squash

This is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest (where I call home) that zucchini, yellow squash, and other summer squashes become the reason why neighbors and family begin avoiding each other. A single zucchini plant can produce so much fruit that it’s not only impossible for a single person to use it all themselves, it’s impossible to even give it away right now because everyone is trying to give away their excess. If you had hearts in your eyes as a mid-winter dreamer of gardens and foolishly seeded more than one plant, then you are in even worse straits; it’s likely that your local food bank won’t even answer the doorbell when you ring, now.

However, I have discovered a partial solution, and it’s a good one: zucchini relish. It’s easy to make, easy to preserve (if you enjoy canning), delicious, and it works for any food that you might use pickle relish on. (Think meats: hot dogs, hamburgers, etc., but it works equally well on veggie burgers and even with crispy fried tofu.)

There are a huge number of recipes for zucchini relish out there, but this is the one that I’ve settled on, after a bit of modification. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and probably a couple of years after being canned. I cannot comment on that second assertion since I devour it long before it gets to its first birthday, no matter how much I make.

The offending fruits

The offending fruits

Sweet Zucchini Relish

  • 12 cups shredded summer squash (I use a food processor)
  • 4 cups chopped onion (I use a Vidalia ChopWizard)
  • 5 tablespoons salt (I use salt *snerk*)
  • 1 red bell pepper (optional: just for color)
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional: just for colour, for my UK friends)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • fresh ground black pepper (amount to your liking)
  1. Place the shredded squash in a large bowl, and add the salt. Mix with your hands until it’s evenly mixed. The squash will immediately start shedding liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the squash. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the remaining solids.  (Rinsing is important: the salt was there to get the liquid out of the solids; you don’t want the salt in the final product, at least not in that amount. What salt remains will be perfect for enhancing the flavor.) Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point, your relish is done. You can pack it into jars and refrigerate and eat, or you can freeze it, or you can can it. It’s really just that simple. If you decide to can it, here are the remaining (incredibly uncomplicated & standard) steps:

  1. Pack relish into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  2. Use a knife to skim the insides of the jar to remove any bubbles.
  3. Wipe the top of the jars to get rid of any moisture or solid bits.
  4. Put on a fresh lid and place in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

A pint of canned zucchini relish. This EXACT pint is going into the mail to grace Josh SpokesGay’s table.

And that’s all there is to it. The great thing about this recipe is that it takes a nutritious and delicious fruit, summer squash, which has a very short raw shelf-life, and turns it into something that you can use for months or even years.

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