Pickled courgette is absolutely the best way to deal with an overlooked courgette plant in the corner of your garden. Sharp, sweet and juicy, it’s a welcome side dish to all sorts of meals. My other half hates courgette so it’s a pleasure to be able to add them to my own food as I wish. The mixture is quite acidic, and the oil provides a floating barrier between the pickles and the air. Though traditionally in Ukraine you keep your pickles in a cool, dark place and they last for years, standard advice is these days to keep them in the fridge and consume within three months.
This method of pickling was shown to be by my freind from Odessa. She used it to pickle sweet peppers and a little cauliflower at the end of the summer when these veggies were in season. It’s a delicious treat – you can put the peppers into sandwiches, but I found that I simply ate mine out of the jar, they were so good.
(metric left) Ingredients (US right)
3kg Courgette – 6.6lbs
1.5 l boiling water – 6 cups
200g vinegar – 1 cup
200g Vegetable Oil – 1 cup
200g Honey – 1 cup
20 black pepper corns
10 bay leaves
10 allspice berries
1 heaped tablespoon of salt
Clean your veggies and cut into julienne strips. If you have a wire egg cutter you can slice your courgette into finger length pieces and then push the egg cutter down over it. You should end up with pieces that are about the size of McDonalds French Fries. As there is a lot of water in courgette they will shrink somewhat as you boil them, so you’ll probably be able to fit twice as much in each jar as their fresh volume.
Combine the other ingredients in a large pan – it’s easiest the pan has twice the volume of your ingredients so there’s no danger of it boiling over. Use a high heat, but keep an eye on it as you sterilise your jars.
I usually steam sterilise jars in the microwave by washing each jar then putting it upside down on a clean tea towel in the microwave for thirty seconds. As the lids are metal, I sterilise these in boiling water.
Once you have all your ducks lined up, then the trick is to make sure the veggies are heated enough so that they are sterilised, without destroying their delicous crunchiness. You will need to time them for exactly two minutes from the time they reach a rolling boil, and then swiftly fish them out and pack them into the sterilised jar. I cook just one jar’s worth of veggies at a time to ensure texture. Once the jar is packed full to about 1 cm / 1/2 inch from the top, fill up the rest of the jar with the boiling liquid – so essentially no head space at all if you can manage it. This will mean that in a short time the oil will form a seal on the top of your preserved courgette. You will then swiftly screw on the lid and invert the jar to make sure that the lid is completely sterilised. Once you have dried the jar you need to wrap it in a a wollen blanket. I have some old woolly jumpers which I put in an old insulated aluminium milk container for this job. They will stay warm for quite some time.
I number each jar as I make them, and then use them in reverse order because the courgettes will lose a significant volume of liquid which will dilute your pickling solution each time. Even though some of the water will evaporate as you boil, I feel that it’s safest to eat first the jars you made last.
My next recipe will be to use the Ukranian method to pickle together all of the veggies my other half doesn’t like – Aubergine (eggplant), Courgette (zuccini), Olives and Capers. As he loves to cook, we eat really well, however I really miss these four essentials to a mediterrainian tomato sauce.