Replacing the Grocery Store Challenge Day 17- How to Preserve Zucchini

Zucchini.  Some people have so much of it that they just give it away.  “Zucchini is coming out of my ears!”  They say.  I rarely ever had that problem.  The last two years, we have been plagued with squash bugs and vine borers.  So this year, I have been a little obsessive about preventing them from doing their damage.
We have about ten 100 foot rows of squash and pumpkin plants growing.  Some are for us and some are for a few CSA members.  About every other day, my kids and I are checking the plants, mainly the base, for vine borer eggs and squash bugs(they usually mate at the base of the plant, then lay their eggs underneath the leaves).
So far so good.  I have killed some, but they aren’t nearly as bad as last year.  It might be due to putting the chicken tractor in the garden where the squash and pumpkin plants were last year.  They just might have scratched around and ate some of them, or disturbed them enough that they did not want to live in that soil anymore.
So, besides giving it away, what do you do with all of your zucchini?  I mean, there is only so much zucchini bread you can make!  Here are the three ways to preserve them.
Can, Freeze and Dehydrate

You can blanch your shredded zucchini before freezing.  I recommend it as it will last longer.  Some have great success by not blanching and if you are one of those people, rock on and keep doing what you are doing.
The most common way to freeze zucchini is by shredding it first, then blanching it.  
What is blanching?
According to ® Blue Book Guide to Preserving (by Jarden Home Brands), my personal favorite canning book, “Blanching cleanses off surface dirt and microorganisms, brightens the color, helps retain vitamins and reduces the action of enzymes which can destroy the fresh flavor after four weeks.”
Blanching is quite easy and if you have room in your freezer, I highly recommend freezing at least some of your produce.  Bring a large stockpot filled about half full(depending on how much you are blanching at one time) of water to a rolling boil.  Put your clean, shredded zucchini in the water and set your timer for 3 minutes.
Once the timer goes off, remove the zucchini and immerse in ice cold water until it is cooled down.
Pack in plastic freezer containers or ziploc bags, remove as much air as possible and seal. 
How much zucchini do you need?  One medium zucchini yields about 1 1/2 cups of shredded zucchini.
Not only can you freeze shredded zucchini for breads, muffins, etc., you can also slice them and blanch the same way, then put them on a tray and freeze.  Once they are frozen, take them out of the tray and put them in freezer bags, remove the air and seal.  In the middle of winter, you can have sauteed zucchini and be so grateful that you did not waste any last summer!
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve zucchini as well.  Make sure you choose young, tender ones and wash them well.  If you would like to use them as chips, cut them 1/8 inch.  If you need them to be a little thicker for soups, cut them about 1/4 inch thick.  Dry them in the dehydrator at 125 degrees fahrenheit until they are brittle.  This usually will take around 12 hours, but check every so often and feel the texture.
Sprinkle the chips with salt and other seasonings to taste.
Put them in jars or sealable plastic bags and store in a dark place.  Check back in a day or so and feel for any moisture.  If you do feel moisture, dehydrate a little bit longer.
You can also dehydrate them in the oven at 175 degrees with the door half open for 4-5 hours, turning them every so often.  Here is a picture of them sprayed with olive oil and a little bit of salt.  If you use oil then dehydrate, just know that you will need to eat them right away as they will not keep for very long.

Although I am not a big fan of zucchini relish, I feel I must share some canning recipes.  Here are some links for those who are fans of zucchini relish.  Who knows, if my cucumber crop fails, I will need to make it anyway!
And there you have it!
Do you have a different way to preserve your zucchini?  I would love for you to share in the comments section below!
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