Friday, July 1, 2016

Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles

Use that zucchini or summer squash in a delicious new way. These spicy pickles are a terrific accompaniment to bratwurst, and bring a feeling of summer all year long.

a close up photo of a bratwurst sandwich with hot and spicy zucchini pickles

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When I mention that I've been canning something, people respond 'oh, I'd like to learn how to can . . .'  like I say I'd like to learn how to weld. As if canning is something that requires schooling, apprenticeships, or anything more involved that just boiling water.

a photo of a jar of hot and spicy zucchini pickles

Really. The mystique needs to be swept away. I'll be teaching a salsa making class at my local community center in September (when all of those tomatoes and peppers are overflowing the markets) to do my part to dispel the illusions. I hope this recipe will help nudge you into canning if you're uncertain. It makes a small amount--just 2 pints--and that fits easily in a tall pasta pot if you've got one.

a photo of a bratwurst sandwich with hot and spicy zucchini pickles and potato salad

I decided to try this recipe because, as with all gardeners, hope springs eternal. Despite my previous squash pickle failure (which resulted in my Pickled Pork Sliders . . . salvaging a canning failure into a decent meal) I wanted to try again. Between my volunteer squash and those in my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share I was awash in squash.

I hit up my local library for cookbooks. Who says Summer Reading Programs need to be limited to novels? In the Better Homes and Gardens Can It! Cookbook  (Amazon affiliate link) I found the inspiring recipe. I modified it based on what I had on hand while keeping the key elements (acidity of final product and length of processing time) intact.

a photo of the lid of the hot and spicy zucchini pickles, with instructions to eat with brats

The recipe notes suggest eating these alongside bratwurst. While my cousin Jim would probably disagree (he thought mustard on my bun was heresy), I thought the spicy slices were a nice addition to a brat. I'm also glad to find a way to use the abundant garden volunteers that pop up throughout the yard.

a photo of a bratwurst sandwich along with a jar of hot and spicy zucchini pickles and potato salad

For more recipes using zucchini, please see my Zucchini Recipes Collection. I've also got a Summer Squash Recipes Collection if you're waffling on what to call the squash in question (those bicolor ones can be tricky). These collections are part of the Visual Recipe Index by Ingredient, a resource for folks like me eating from the farm share, the farmer's market, the garden, the neighbor's garden, and great deals on ugly produce at the grocery store.

I'm sharing more recipes on my Pinterest boards, follow me there. If you like a good peek behind the scenes like I do, follow me on Instagram. Need a good read? I'm sharing articles of interest on my Facebook page, follow me there. Want to know How to Use This Blog?

Do you have zucchini? Do you like pickles? Do you want to try canning? If so--give this recipe a try. Here's some sites with terrific tutorials to get you started on the nuts and bolts of canning: Food In Jars Canning 101 and Pick Your Own All About Canning are two good ones.

Note: this recipe requires the zucchini to soak for a few hours, and takes a few weeks for the pickles to cure. Could you let the pickles cure in the refrigerator instead of processing them in a boiling water bath? Sure, I think that would work although I've not tried it.

making hot and spicy zucchini pickles

Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles (makes 2 pints)

recipe modified from the one in Better Homes and Gardens Can It! cookbook


  • 1+½ pounds zucchini, cut into spears to fit into your jars as shown
  • ice cubes
  • 1+½ Tablespoons pickling salt (I use this kind-Amazon affiliate link)
  • 1+⅓ cups white vinegar
  • a generous ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 small hot peppers
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed


  1. If you're new to canning, refer to the links above for excellent tutorials on how to get started canning. The only 'official canning tools' I think you need are a funnel and jar lifter.
  2. Layer half the zucchini and half the ice cubes and half the salt in a plastic or glass bowl. Repeat layers. Top with a plate and put something heavy on top to weight it down. Set aside on the counter for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. After the salt has drawn out moisture from the zucchini, transfer the squash to a colander and allow to drain for an hour.
  4. When the zucchini has drained, fill up your canning pot of choice (anything that will hold 2 pint jars plus 2 inches of water to cover) with water and your clean jars. Remember to have a shelf, or a towel, to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot as well as a towel on the counter for afterwards. Heat the covered canning pot on high heat. 
  5. Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and crushed red pepper to a boil in a saucepan, boil for a minute, then reduce heat to low.
  6. I use my kettle to heat water that I pour over the lids in a small saucepan. I set this nearby so the seals can soften. 
  7. While the water in the canner is getting up to a full boil, pack the zucchini spears into the clean jars. I find it easiest to lay the jars on their sides initially, then once they are nearly full stand them up straight. 
  8. Add 2 small hot peppers, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, and ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds to each jar.
  9. Pour the hot brine over the filled jars. A canning funnel makes this easier. At this point if you don't plan to water bath process the pickles go ahead and jump down to #14.
  10. Use a plastic scraper or chopstick to remove any air pockets by sticking it down the side of the jar and pushing the contents away from the side. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel. Set a warmed lid on each jar, and use the ring to tighten it until it just meets resistance. This is called "fingertip tight". Don't crank on it.
  11. Place the jars into the canning pot, cover, and wait until the water returns to a full boil. I look for steam escaping from the lid. When the water is at a boil, set the timer for 10 minutes.
  12. When the timer rings, turn off the heat under the canning pot and remove the lid. Wait a minute, then remove the jars from the pot to your towel-lined counter. A jar lifter comes in handy here.
  13. Listen for the Ping which signifies that the jar has sealed. I usually hear this within a couple of minutes, but sometimes I miss it when I am dumping the hot canning water down the utility sink to help keep the pipes clear. Leave the jars undisturbed overnight.
  14. When the jars are cool, remove the rings. You're done with those until next time, so store them with your canning supplies. Lift each jar up by holding onto the lid. If the the jar sealed, you'll be able to do this. If the jar didn't seal, or if you chose not to water bath process the pickles, simply use a handy plastic storage cap (Amazon affiliate link) to cover the jar and store in the refrigerator. The pickles should be cured in 1 to 2 weeks, and will keep easily for a month in the fridge.
  15. Store sealed jars in a cool dark place and use within a year.


  1. Where are the 4 small hot peppers in the recipe instructions?

    1. Oh great catch! I showed the hot peppers packed into the jars but didn't tell when to put them in. Thank you for asking and I've updated the recipe instructions to reflect this.
      I appreciate it!