Fussy to make, these pickles are rather gorgeous and a great way to use the gigantic zucchini that you can’t avoid in your vegetable garden patch.
Zucchine Sott’Olio | Zucchini Preserved in Oil with Hot Peppers, Garlic, and Mint
source: adapted from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino
prep time: up to 60 hours
waiting time: 2 weeks or more
lasts:up to 6 months
2 – 2.5kg large zucchini, around 1kg each (although it can be made successfully with smaller zucchini)
½ cup salt
3 cups white wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
5 garlic cloves, sliced
3 or 4 small chillies, or to taste, sliced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
Cut the zucchini crosswise into 8-centimeter pieces. Cut each piece in half lengthwise, then take out all the seeds and spongy pulp from the center. Slice each section crosswise into slices 0.5 cm thick, or a little less. Use a mandoline for even slices.
Layer the zucchini with the salt in a large bowl, and toss well. Leave for 12 hours and then drain the water from the zucchini, squeezing a handful at a time to remove the water. Use a pickle press to do this if you have one.
Place the zucchini in a heavy nonreactive pot with the vinegar and 1 cup water. The liquid should barely cover the zucchini.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the zucchini slices are cooked through but still whole, 3-5 minutes. Do not allow them to break apart. Smaller zucchini might take less time.
Drain the zucchini and put them in a large colander. Place a heavy weight on top of them for 15-20 minutes – a pot filled with water will work.
Lay several layers of clean kitchen towels or kitchen paper towels on a table or the kitchen bench. Put the zucchini slices on the towels without overlapping. Allow to dry at room temperature until they feel a little leathery and are no longer damp, about 24 to 48 hours. They will shrivel considerably.
Place the zucchini in a bowl and toss with the mint, garlic, hot peppers, and the ½ cup olive oil. Taste for salt and let the mixture marinate at room temperature for a day.
Transfer the zucchini to a ½-litre glass jar. Pack them in tightly, pushing them down with a fork or spoon to remove any air gaps. Top with olive oil so they are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before sampling to give the zucchini time to absorb the seasonings.
Bring them out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to serve them to allow the oil to liquefy. Return any leftover zucchini to the refrigerator, topping with oil so the zucchini remain completely submerged. If kept submerged in olive oil and refrigerated, the zucchini will last for up to 6 months.
Makes about ½ litre.