Ferment that Baby Zucchini! How to Make Fermented Baby Zucchini Pickles
Are your zucchini squash plants giving you tons of zucchini? Or maybe you are looking forward to that day, like I am (it's still a little early for us, here in Idaho). I can hardly wait til I have too much zucchini. That's a true sign that summer is going full blast and harvest time is here! But what do you do with too much zucchini? Besides giving it to friends, of course?
Or maybe you went a little crazy at the local farm or farmer's market? I've been guilty of that on more than one occasion, that's for sure!
There are tons of great zucchini recipes out there, but you can only cook up so much of it. Then there is preservation. You can dehydrate it or can it....but my FAVORITE way to preserve and use too much zucchini is to FERMENT it!
Why? Because it's delicious! It's also really, really good for you because it's filled with probiotics and the extra nutrition that raw fermented foods delivers to your body. Fermentation is hands-down my favorite method of preserving foods.
Here's my recipe for homemade fermented zucchini pickles! DELICIOUS! And enjoy! :-)
**For some of my other fermented recipes, check out How to Make Fermented Tomatoes, How to Make Delicious Fermented Jalapeño Rings, and Fermentation Myths: You'll Want to Ferment Everything Once You Read This!
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Ingredients for Homemade Fermented Zucchini Pickles
*** About 3 to 4 small zucchini per quart wide mouth Mason jar
*** Garlic to taste
*** Jalapeno or Red Peppers (optional)
*** Dill (if you want)
*** Ferment Starter Culture (optional): Whey OR leftover brine from another ferment (that link is to my recipe for fermented tomatoes, which is where I got the liquid for these pickles) OR you can make your own brine (see directions below), which is heavier on the salt.
*** Sea Salt: 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp per quart Mason jar, depending on if you are adding a helpful starter (whey or liquid from a good ferment). If you don't have a starter culture handy, then go with the full tablespoon of salt. Even 1 1/2 tablespoons is fine.
What Does the Salt in the Ferment Do?
You might be wondering how the brine works for fermenting and preserving foods. Simply, the salt helps keep only the good micro-organisms alive while killing off the bad ones. The chance of your ferment molding or going bad is greatly reduced because of the salt.
What Kind of Salt is Best?
Any mineral-rich salt is fine. Just don't use the commercially processed salt with iodine. That stuff is just plain bad. Use sea salt, Himalayan salt, or other natural mineral salt.
About Ferment Starter Culture and/or Brine (Do You Really Need It?)
You might want to add some type of starter and/or brine to your ferment. I do, usually. This gets the ferment going more quickly. But if you don't have it, no worries, as I mentioned in the section about salt above. Your ferment will be fine by just using enough salt.
Here are some starters you can choose from, if you like. These are my favorite options:
To Make Brine:
Add about 1 tablespoon (give or take) sea salt to about 3 cups of filtered water (I actually just use our well water). The salty brine won't have any of the yeast necessary to ferment the vegetables, but don't worry---there is lots of wild yeast floating around in the air that will take care of that! The salty water helps protect the veggies against mold and bad organisms but allows the good organisms to ferment the vegetables just fine.
If you don't want to use so much salt, then supplementing your ferment with optional whey or leftover liquid from an existing ferment will allow you to cut back on the salt significantly.
You can get whey from quality whole plain yogurt. You can read about how to make whey here. You'll just add about 1/4 cup to your ferment, and this will really help it get going!
Leftover Liquid from Another Ferment:
This is probably my favorite way to get the ferment started quickly. If you have an existing raw ferment, then you can just add about 1/4 cup of that liquid! It will already have all of the cultures in it, and your ferment will be a bit quicker.
The only thing you have to be careful about is that you must take into account the type of taste of the ferment the liquid is from. You don't want it clashing with the taste you are trying to achieve in the new ferment.
***You know where else you can get liquid from a previous ferment? If you buy RAW sauerkraut or kimchi, the liquid from that will work too. Just be sure it's not pasteurized.
How to Make Fermented Zucchini Pickles
Step 1) Wash & Slice the Zucchini
These are baby zucchini, so I didn't have to cut them in half---I just sliced them down the middle, then sliced down the middle again, to make long fourths.
Step 2) Pack the Jar
Make sure you work with SUPER clean jars for your ferments. I personally don't obsess about sanitation, but I do make sure my jars are very clean by rinsing with very hot water.
Just put the zucchini slices lengthwise into the jar and pack them in as tightly as you can. Add your garlic and any other spices you want to add. (Pictures below)
Step 3) Add Your Spices
I'm not really a stickler for measuring out my spices. For this ferment, I just added a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and lots of black pepper. I was going to add a jalapeño pepper or a red pepper, but I decided not to.
Step 4) Add Your Whey or Liquid from a Previous Ferment (Optional)
Just add in about 1/4 cup of the whey or liquid from a previous ferment if you want.
Step 5) Add the Salt Brine & Starter Culture (if Using)
Pour your salted water to within an inch or so of the top.
Step 6) Set up Your Ferment
Here is where you will make sure your veggies are below the surface of the water by adding some kind of weight. I like to use ceramic or glass fermenting weights because they fit perfectly into a wide mouth Mason jar. I've also used boiled rocks and small jelly jars filled with a bit of water. You can get really creative with the weights you use.
You might want to consider using an airlock that fits on a Mason jar. That way you can just leave it be, and never have to remember to "burp" it! I love these silicone pickle pipe airlocks (I call them nipple airlocks---lol) from Amazon.
Step 7) Let Ferment Away
Now, you just wait patiently for the fermentation process to begin and get to where you like it. I let these zucchini go about a week before eating them!
It's been about two weeks now, and I still have one jar sitting on the counter. The longer you let ferment, the more complex the flavors. When you get your ferments where you like them, just refrigerate the jar.
How Long Do These Last in the 'Fridge?
Honestly, I've had ferments last in the fridge for over a year. With the sweet ferments (fruit), most people say about two weeks, but I've had them last longer. Just do the smell test! If they smell "off" then go ahead and compost. And obviously, if there is mold, compost away. But in my experience, ferments last a REALLY long time if you don't introduce dirty utensils.
How Does Fermented Zucchini Taste?
Well, since there is no vinegar or acid added to this, it's not your typical pickle. It's much more mild, with a nice tangy, salty flavor. The spices make these delicious! My husband can eat a whole jar!
About the Forgiveness of Fermentation
You've probably noticed that fermentation is an extremely forgiving process. Once you've made a few ferments, you'll find that you really can't mess up! As long as you either have enough salt in your brine OR you have started with whey or another culture, you're usually golden!
Final Thoughts on Fermentation, and Especially, This Recipe
I hope you'll give fermentation a try with your zucchini this year! These zucchini pickles are delicious, and make a delicious and healthy summer treat.
Do you ferment any foods? I'd love to know your experiences, so leave a comment in the comments section---
Oh! And if you want to take a great fermentation course online, I recommend The Art of Herbal Fermentation from The Herbal Academy of New England.
You may also enjoy these related articles:
- How to Make Perfect Sauerkraut (A Great Recipe for the Beginning Fermenter)
- How to Make Ginger-Beet Kvass (Excellent for Gut Health)
- Bake Incredible Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- How to Make the BEST Pickled Eggs
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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