It’s that time of year when zucchinis and crooknecks and patty pans crowd the garden space.
One day the plants are clusters of large green leaves. The next day, there’s enough squash to feed the neighborhood. And so, July becomes the season of giveaways.
Veggie drop is a form of tag. The dropper tags you with a basket of beans or tomatoes or cucumbers and you, the dropee, are “it.” If you can’t use it all, you re-gift it, like a summer version of Dirty Santa.
Sometimes the veggies turn up unannounced in the break room at work with a note attached “Free to good home.”
Sometimes they’re introduced by phone call or text: I’m bringing some squash by.
You can’t say no, so there you are, with more produce than you can possibly use for the next week or two or three.
I know yellow squash is versatile. It can extend casseroles, fill out stews and brighten a salad, but my household is small and my dogs aren’t vegetarians.
What to do?
A friend I’ll call Evalene is into squash casseroles in a big way. You may know this recipe—it involves grated carrots and stuffing mix and onions.
For years Evalene and her husband have filled their deep freeze with Pyrex casserole dishes full of squash casseroles. They use them all over the course of a year, she says.
Here are her freezing tips.
1. Clean the squash and chop into cubes.
2. Spread the cubes evenly on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.
3. When frozen, place cubes in freezer bags for the deep freeze.
Squash pieces are great for cooking with a bit of onion or adding to stews and casseroles, especially in cold dreary months when a bright-yellow vegetable is a cheery sight.
I once followed Evalene’s advice. I cut up the squash and placed them in the freezer. I was that sure come November, I’d welcome these reminders of abundant summertime, when it was 92 degrees outside instead of 32.
In the end I came to realize that I’m not all that crazy about frozen squash. It’s too watery for my taste. Nevertheless, I’ll regift the vegetables before they go to the compost heap.
Recently, I was gifted six good-sized zucchinis. Every time I opened the door, there they were as if to taunt me. Fry us! Stew us! Bake us! Can us!
I knew I should do something before these annoying squashes started to dent and grow old-age spots. So, I baked them into zucchini bread that Evalene and her family begging for more.
Here’s how I made it:
1 cup salad oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
2 cups raw zucchini, shredded
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped
Combine in order listed and put into two loaf pans. Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour or until done.
Still have extra zucchini?
This tried-and-true canned relish recipe has become my secret ingredient for sandwiches, deviled eggs, potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken salad, ham salad—you name it. I acquired it in a former work life, maybe Central Telephone Company. I’m not sure.
8 cups or so, finely chopped zucchini
4 cups finely chopped onion
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 green sweet pepper, chopped
Pour the veggies into a large bowl. Add 5 tablespoons pickling salt. Cover with cloth and let stand overnight, at least 8 hours. Pour vegetable mixture into colander. Drain.
Combine the following ingredients and bring to a boil before adding the drained vegetable mixture. Cook 30 minutes, SLOW. Fill pint jars and process 15 minutes in water bath. Makes about 6 pints.
2 ½ cups white vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoons celery seed
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
¾ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
NOTE: You may substitute yellow squash for part of the zucchini.