Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles, and some helpful tips on keeping "pickles" crispy

Zucchini is coming in hot and heavy!  If you need some extra ideas for what to do with all the zuke, try these Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles.  They are pretty delicious!

Making pickles is a great way to get started in the craft of preserving.  Many things growing in the garden (or at your local farm stand) can be pickled, its not just for cukes!  When I first started making pickles, I went through my fair share of mushy pickles, but a few tips have helped me improve the quality of my pickles.  I still get the soggy jar here and there, so don't get discouraged if you get any soggy jars.  Try, try again!


Hot and Spicy Pickled Zucchini


Below are a few helpful tips to try if you are having a problem keeping your pickles crisp, that the recipe may not point out.  With water bath processing, the excess heat can sometimes cause your pickles to mush- but these tips can help keep those babies firm and crisp!


  • -Soak your veggie in iced cold salt water for 3-4 hours (at room temp).  This will draw out excess water and allow the vegetable to remain crisper.

  • Add some tannins.  I am experimenting this year with tannins- some recipes recommend adding a bay leaf to each jar for tannin, but you can also use a grape leaf, an oak leaf or even black tea.  Tannins help prevent the cell walls of the vegetable from breaking down.  Cutting the blossom end off each cuke/zucchini also helps, but I still add the extra tannin to promote as much crispiness as possible.

  • Add pickle crisp or Mrs. Wages Xtra crunch, a calcium product that helps promote firmness.  This product takes the place of liming pickles, which is an older method of preserving crispness.  Food-grade lime can lower the acidity of pickles if it is not rinsed and soaked again after the initial soak, making your pickles possibly unsafe. Pickle crisp and Mrs. Wages are put right into the jar before filling with brine, and do not contain the hydroxide that lime has, so there is no ill effect on pH.
  • If you have an electric canner, you can try pasteurizing your pickles instead of boiling water.  The water must stay consistently at 180degrees for 30 minutes (instead of the 10-minute boiling method) so trying this with a regular water bath is more difficult than an electric pot that is more regulated.  The lower temp for a longer time kills pathogens but isn't as disruptive on the tender vegetables



I hope you find these tips helpful!  Happy Preserving!  I would love to know if you try the recipe.  



Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles in steam canner


Hot and Spicy Zucchini Pickles

This was a delicious recipe and my "pickles" stayed crisp.  Give it a try!  Recipe is from "The Complete Book of Pickling" by Jennifer MacKenzie.


4 lbs Zucchini (no larger than 2 inches)

4 cups ice cubes

1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

1 cup granulated sugar

4 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

2 cups water 

6 long hot red, orange or yellow chile peppers cut lengthwise into thin strips

6 bay leaves

Mustard Seeds (approx. 3 tsp but maybe more)


1.  Trim ends from zucchini and cut into 4- by 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch sticks, or the length that will fit into jars allowing 1 inch headspace.  


2.  In a large non-reactive bowl, layer zucchini, ice cubes, and salt, using about one-third for each layer.  Add cold water to cover by about 1 inch.  Place a plate on top to weigh down the zucchini.  Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature for 3 hours.


3.  Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.


4.  In a colander, working in batches, drain zucchini well.  Set aside.


5.  In a saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until sugar dissolves. Boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and keep liquid hot.


6. Working with one jar at a time, pack zucchini and one-sixth of the hot pepper strips into each hot jar, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Add 1 bay leaf and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds.  Pour in hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary by adding hot pickling liquid.  Wipe rim and place hot lid disc on jar.  Screw band down until fingertip-tight.


7.  Place jars in canner and return to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in water for 5 minutes.  Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let stand for 24 hours.  Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed. 


8.  Wash jars with warm soapy water before storage.  Label and date contents.

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