When a friend blessed us with about 36 pounds of zucchini the other day, I considered how I would put it to use. The only way we really eat zucchini is baked with cheese and spices, or in Zucchini Bread. We don’t really like it canned, dehydrated, or even in soups, really. But we all really love it in a quick bread.
There seems to always be an overabundance of zucchini at the middle to end of summer, and it can be tough to preserve. It spoils quickly when left out in the open air, and when you freeze, can, or dehydrate it, it often loses its texture and turns into a mushy, tasteless mess.
We did grill some, which turned out yummy. But there was a ton to use, and it wasn’t going to last more than a couple of days before starting to rot. What to do?
And then I had an idea. Why not shred it and freeze it for future quick breads? After a little search online, sure enough it can be done.
This is definitely my new favorite way to ‘put up’ a bunch of zucchini. And I know we’ll use it.
Here’s how freezing shredded zucchini works…
First, get your hands on some good, small to medium sized zucchini. You don’t want a humongous zucchini ’cause it’ll be very seedy and dry. Although the moisture content of the zucchini doesn’t matter as much when you’re freezing it, the seeds can pose a problem because you don’t want to bake them into your bread, and they can be tough to sort out after they have thawed. The best zucchinis for freezing are those that are young and thin.
Wash and dry the zucchini well. Then chop off each end. You don’t have to peel them, but you can if you so choose. The taste and texture of the frozen, shredded zucchini is roughly the same with or without the skin.
Using a cheese grater, shred up the zucchini. I use a medium shred because it makes the work go by more quickly, but you can do a fine shred if you prefer. If you have a food processor, you can make quick work of this process and feed all of the zucchini in, one at a time.
Using a food processor presents another advantage in that you don’t have to worry about accidentally shredding your knuckles, plus you can customize the size of the shreds to very small or very large, depending on your preferences and the way you intend to use the zucchini.
Fill Ziploc freezer bags with however much zucchini your favorite bread recipe calls for. I filled my bags with about two cups of zucchini, twice as much as my zucchini bread calls for, so that I can make a double batch of bread each time around. Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags to prevent freezer burn, and also to make the bags easier to store.
If you have a food sealer device, like the one made by FoodSaver, you’re in luck. Using a sealer is a way to preserve your vegetables for even longer, as it forms an airtight seal that is impossible to obtain using traditional plastic (Ziploc) bags. However, keep in mind that if you are using a food sealer, you may add an extra step because you will need to constantly drain the machine of the excess liquid that is leached out of the zucchini as it seals. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as you will need to strain the excess water later on – but does add a step in the initial preservation process.
Regardless of the process you choose to use, make sure you store all the bags flat in the freezer. When you initially freeze the bags, place them in a single layer. This will allow for more even distribution of the cold air, making them freeze faster and more evenly. Once they have frozen solid (check back in twenty-four hours), you can rearrange and stack them to make more room for other frozen food.
Frozen zucchini should be used within twelve months, although sooner is obviously better. You don’t really run the risk of contracting a foodborne illness with eating older frozen zucchini, but the taste will be seriously impacted the longer it sits in the freezer. That being said, if you use a food sealer, you may be able to extend the longevity and overall quality of your frozen zucchini just a tad bit longer.
Just make sure you label all of your bags with the date you froze the zucchini, as well as the contents of the package (believe it or not, it will become hard to figure out what’s inside after a while!).
A common mistake that many people make when freezing zucchini is to freeze an entire zucchini – or even sliced zucchini spears – whole, without shredding, dicing, spiralizing, or cubing it. This does save you an initial step in the preservation process, but adds a whole new headache in that zucchini frozen in this manner becomes a soggy, sodden mess. It is very difficult to do anything with it at that point – even shred it – besides pureeing it, and it also loses a lot of flavor. To avoid this, make sure you cut your zucchini up in some way before freezing it.
When you freeze zucchini, it does make it more watery upon thawing, but this isn’t a problem when adding it to a recipe. Just be sure to thaw it and drain off any excess liquid before using it in a recipe (or even while cooking). While zucchini bread is definitely my favorite way to eat thawed shredded zucchini, it can also be used in pastas, stir-fries, smoothies, casseroles, or soups. Experiment until you find the recipes that work best for your family’s tastes, schedule, and budget.