If you have more than one happy zucchini plant, you likely have a lot of fruit. Sharing is caring – but when your friends and neighbors start to back away before you can say “zucc-” you know they’ve had enough. Fortunately, there’s so many ways of preserving zucchini for later. Before long, you’ll have homegrown zucchini goodies to last the winter. Maybe next year, your friends will be the ones begging you for some zucchini instead of the other way around.
If you are interested in learning more about preserving zucchini and other food at home, check out our recorded class, available for purchase at this link The Joy of Preserving Food at Home.
Choose fresh, undamaged zucchini or summer squash to preserve. The small to medium sized are best to preserve. The skin is thinner, flesh firmer and there are fewer seeds. The giant ones are best shredded. You’ll probably want to scoop the mushy area with the seeds out of the bigger ones – it’ll have a smoother texture for baking.
Freezing is one of the easiest and most versatile ways of preserving zucchini. All you do is wash, slice, blanch, cool and package.
Blanching is the process of partially cooking your vegetables by immersing them in boiling water for a short time (water blanching) or in a hot steam bath (steam blanching), then dunking them into ice water. This cleans your vegetables, brightens their color, and stops enzymes from continuing to age the fruit, preserving the flavor and texture.
We prefer to water blanch our zucchini. It’s easier and better suited for a larger quantity being prepped at one time. The method in most recipe books and directions is typically water blanching unless it’s otherwise listed.
Step 1: Cut Up Your Zucchini
To prep for blanching, wash your squash then cut your zucchini into slices, chunks, thick strips or even halved to make stuffed zucchini boats. You can also spiralize or shred the zucchini. Shredded zucchini is perfect for those giant zucchinis you find hidden under a leaf. Use it in breads, soups, and stir fries.
To make chopped, sliced or halved zucchinis, trim off the ends then cut.
To shred the zucchini, use either a box grater or a food processor with a shredder attachment.
To spiralize the zucchini for “zoodles”, run it through a spiralizer.
Step 2: Blanching
Boil a large pot of water. While the water is boiling, immerse the zucchini in small batches for 3 minutes, then drop them immediately into an ice or cold water bath. Make sure the water stays cold. This will stop the cooking process and help preserve the texture of the zucchini a bit.
If you don’t blanch your shredded or spiralized zucchini, that’s okay. It’s better to skip blanching if you aren’t going to let it fully blanch. use it within 2 months.
Step 3: Freezing
You may want to spread out your blanching and cut zucchini on baking sheets in a single layer, freeze them, then package them in either vacuum sealed pouches, freezer bags, squeezing out all of the air, or freezer paper. We to prefer freeze our vegetables in meal sized servings, then wrap in doubled freezer paper taped shut with masking tape. We put several of these packages into a freezer bag to help organize the freezer a bit.
Don’t forget to label and date each package.
There are choices for packaging shredded or spiralized zucchini. My personal favorite is to use a 1 cup silicone cupcake pan. I fill each cup with the zucchini, cover it with a tiny bit of water so it doesn’t flake apart, then freeze the cups overnight. I just pop them out of the pan and into a freezer bag. They’re already pre-measured for baking and soups. You could also package them in pouches, freezer paper, or bags like the cubes.
If you’re using them for baking, thaw each zucchini cube in cheesecloth or a sifter before using it and press out the excess moisture.
Dehydrated zucchini is surprisingly good. It can be used to make low-carb chips or preserve it by dehydrating to use in cooking later. It’s easily re-hydrated in warm water or broth.
Before dehydrating, you may want to blanch your zucchini and squash. This is for food safety purposes as it kills bacteria. It stops the enzymes which causes a loss of flavor during storage, too. If you are dehydrating in your oven or dehydrator above 140*F, you are actually cooking your food while it dehydrates. You can steam blanch your vegetables if you want to preserve more nutrients. If you skip the blanching step, your vegetables may have a shorter shelf life and take longer to re-hydrate.
Follow steps 1 and 2 under Freezing Zucchini to blanch and prepare. You can also refer to the directions Preserving Food: Drying Fruits and Vegetables.
You can slice, cube or shred your zucchini for dehydrating. When they’re properly dried, they will be stiff and hard, so consider the size of your storage container’s opening when cutting them.
My absolute favorite snack this spring was these zucchini chips. (Spring and fall are summer squash seasons in Florida.) You can mix up the herbs and spices according to your taste. I prefer olive oil, rosemary, and garlic salt.
Slice and blanch your zucchini, squeeze the excess water out and let the surface air dry on the racks. Spray or lightly brush a little oil on the tops of the zucchini -not too much or it’ll make a mess and they’ll be dripping with oil if you’re using it. Dehydrate about halfway, then remove the racks, add freshly chopped herbs and finish dehydrating. Sprinkle the finished chips with salt and any powdered herbs. They are so good!
Dehydrated zucchini can easily be re-hydrated and tossed into soups, stir fries and pasta dishes. We usually slice them then cut each slice into halved or quarters so they’ll easily fit into various jars for storage. It is actually our favorite method of food storage because it’s easier than canning and doesn’t require electricity like frozen food does. It’s lightweight for travelling too.
Follow the directions on your dehydrator for temperature and time. You should expect your dehydrated zucchini to be brittle when it’s done.
Wait until your squash fully cools before putting it in storage containers. If you are adding a desiccant pack (not needed if your storage is air tight in a climate controlled or cool area), be sure it’s food grade. We live in Florida and often use a desiccant pack for our larger containers just in case our power goes out. That humidity rises quickly indoors especially with our summer storms.
You can also shred the zucchini and spread it thinly on the racks. You might want to stir it a few times to prevent the pieces from sticking together during the dehydration process. Once it’s done, it’ll take up less space in jars, and be perfect to add to my favorite dehydrated vegetable soup mix or to re-hydrate for baking. If you are one to “hide” vegetables in your cooking for children, shredded zucchini is awesome!
If you like cucumber pickles, you will LOVE zucchini pickles. They have a slightly different texture but to be honest, we actually prefer them. You could simply substitute zucchini for cucumbers in your favorite recipe or try this Pickled Bread and Butter Zucchini recipe. We substituted our finely-chopped home-grown turmeric for the ground turmeric. They are so good.
Just like pickles, zucchini and summer squash can take the place of cucumbers in relish. We follow a basic recipe for Summer Squash Relish. Sometimes we follow it exactly and sometimes we use a different spice combination. We like to add a finely diced pepper for a kick.