The southern vegetarian meal I’ve been going on about this week was inspired by the veggies in our CSA pick-up. What I haven’t mentioned until now is that in it we received a very generous pile of golden, yellow summer squash. After reading the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I had mentally tucked away the notion of making zucchini pickles. When I saw all of those summer squashes from our CSA, I decided it was pickle time with a slight change to the main ingredient. The Zuni zucchini pickles are well-known for their fluorescent, green color, but my version resulted in very saturated, yellow pickles instead. They were a great addition to the meal. I actually doubled the recipe and filled a tall jar of them, so there are plenty more waiting in the refrigerator for future meals.
I don’t know if this is against the rules of southern-style vegetable pickling or not, but my preference is for tart, vinegary pickles rather than sweet ones. I may have just ruined the meal’s theme by throwing some non-sweet pickles on the table. And, while I’m confessing, I don’t like sugar in my tea either. So, I made the brine with less than half the suggested amount of sugar. First, two pounds of yellow squash were thinly sliced on a Benriner, and a couple of onions were cut into thin slices as well. Those were combined and tossed with salt in a large bowl. Ice cubes and cold water were added, and it was left to sit for an hour before being drained and patted dry. Cider vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric, the secret to the vivid color, were combined and simmered for a few minutes. The brine was allowed to cool before being poured over the prepared squash and onion. All of it was packed into a large glass jar and placed in the refrigerator where it will keep indefinitely.
I had one minor concern about the brine because the powdery dry mustard and turmeric made it appear a little cloudy. I worried that the pickles might come out of the jar with a slight grittiness from the spices. That was not the case, and I forgot all about it when I tasted the chilled pickles the next day. Any cloudiness or grit that was present on the first day had dissolved or settled in the jar. The flavor of the pickles was just where I’d hoped it would be. The reduced amount of sugar provided some balance, but the tartness was evident. They added a spunky, crunchy element to our main course of vegetable stew, and they’ll be delicious with burgers and salads to come. I thought I had made a ridiculously large batch, but the jar is getting emptier every day as I snack on a few pickles every time I open the refrigerator.