One of my goals in signing up for a weekly CSA vegetable box is to discover new vegetables and (in theory) learning to like vegetables that up until now I’ve disliked. So far, this has been going really well, but all along I knew that summer was going to provide me with my biggest challenge: I just don’t like summer squash (or zucchini, or eggplant for that matter – but these are still upcoming challenges). Summer squash has long been a problem for me – whenever you go out to dinner in the summer, the seasonal vegetable is without fail some mixture of zucchini and squash. It’s hard to avoid.
I received my first squash two weeks ago. It was small, so I reasoned that I should save it until I had more to work with. Meanwhile I waited for inspiration. Turns out, I didn’t know how to store summer squash – I wrongly assumed that you don’t have to refrigerate it (since I never refrigerate winter squash). Fortunately, I discovered this before I’d ruined the squash I received last week and this week.
Last week I received two squash that I couldn’t immediately identify – they were shaped almost like a flying saucer. Turns out they were pattypan squash. I was encouraged to start my experimentation with them, since they look nothing like the sauteed restaurant squash that I’m usually served. But what to make?
I’ve always been a firm believer that deep-frying anything makes it more tasty, but after almost a year of healthy eating I don’t think I could force myself to deep-fry a fresh local vegetable. But I thought I could apply a similar principle to pickling – surely anything can be made to taste great by pickling it (after all – look at how popular pickled okra has become this year).
I’m not quite ready to tackle true “canning”, so I decided to make a small batch of refrigerator pickles. I’d use a basic pickle recipe, but I only made three small jars so that I can refrigerate them and eat them in the next few weeks while they’re still good. Looking around the web I found a recipe for Pattypan Pickles. The blog’s author (Kaela) focuses on local ingredients – I’m glad to have stumbled on this, and will be looking to her for inspiration in the future. I’m sure this will work with other varieties of squash (or any other vegetables for that matter) – I’m planning on experimenting and will post my results!
In her recipe, she says you should be careful not to alter the proportions of vinegar and water (half vinegar with at least 5-percent acidity and half water) and salt (1.5 Tbsp. salt to 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water is what she uses). But other than that one can play with the recipe at will. I don’t like sweet pickles, so I substantially reduced the sugar (I included just 1/2 tsp. to cut a bit of the vinegar bite). I used more garlic than suggested and then added mustard seed to my jars. Other than that, I followed her recipe.
One technique is worth pointing out – you start by sprinkling the squash with salt and then letting it sit for a while until a lot of the liquid is released. This is something I started doing a while ago with cucumbers when I made cucumber salads – it’s a great way to make sure the cucumber (or in this case squash) stays nice and crisp, absorbs whatever dressing you’re using, and keeps the finished dish from getting too watery.
This was really very easy – the “active time” is only about 15 minutes – and I’m finally eating and enjoying squash!
To start, cut the squash into about 1/4-inch slices. Mine were a bit large, so I cut them in half (through the stem) before slicing them. There’s no need to peel the squash. Some people suggest removing seeds, but I left them. Place in a bowl:
- Two pattypan squash, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. salt (I used kosher salt for this step – sea salt would be fine, too; I would avoid iodized salt, however)
Cover and set aside. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour – I left mine for about 4 hours – so that the squash releases its liquid. After this time, rinse well in a colander under running water.
In a small saucepan combine:
- 1/2 cup white vinegar (at least 5 percent acidity)
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar (at least 5 percent acidity, preferably unfiltered)
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 Tablespoons pickling salt (pickling salt is really fine and will dissolve very quickly – if you don’t have this, you can substitute sea salt or kosher salt, which may result in a more cloudy liquid. Do NOT use iodized salt!)
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
Bring this to a boil so that the salt dissolves. (As noted above, pickling salt will dissolve almost right away – other salts may take a bit more time)
Place in small mason jars (I used 3 8-ounce jars):
- rinsed pattypan squash slices
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns (whole)
- 1/4 tsp. coriander seeds (whole)
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red chili flakes (these give the pickles a little kick, which I like – omit them if you don’t like spicy pickles)
- 1/4 tsp. mustard seed (whole – I used yellow mustard seed)
Pour the boiling vinegar mixture into the jars, cover and refrigerate. I made these several days ago, and the flavor is gradually mellowing, but you can eat them whenever you like.