Got extra zucchini? If you’re like most homesteaders, you probably do. These vegetables grow prolifically, and it’s not hard to find yourself inundated with more zucchini than you know what to do with.
While many people choose to dehydrate or freeze their zucchini, canning is a great way to save freezer and cupboard space. Canning is an easy way to produce a long-lasting supply of this delicious crop, as canned foods last over a year in most cases.
That said, there are a few issues related to canning zucchini…that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, but there are some safety considerations you’ll want to take into account before doing so.
In this post, I’ll address all of those – and give you some safe recommendations for how to process your zucchini in a way that preserves all of its flavor and nutrients!
Can You Can Zucchini?
Technically, yes. You can can zucchini.
Zucchini must be canned using a pressure canner. Water bath canners only reach boiling point temperatures, while pressure canners heat contents to 240 degrees Fahrenheit (115 Celsius).
Any low-acid foods, like most vegetables, meats, and seafood, must be canned using a pressure canner to avoid the risk of contracting botulism or other foodborne illnesses.
If you don’t own a pressure canner, don’t risk it — just go ahead and freeze your leftover zucchini.
While spiralized zucchini can do quite nicely, it’s worth being willing to experiment with your canning recipes to obtain the proper ratios. Whatever doesn’t work well with canning can be frozen, pickled, or dehydrated.
Here’s a super easy way to can zucchini using the raw pack method…
The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for those looking to learn more about canning and preserving food. However, there are some foods that the National Center does not recommend canning, and one of those foods is zucchini.
One of the primary reasons why the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning zucchini is because the texture of the vegetable changes when it’s canned.
When zucchini is canned, it becomes softer and less crisp. This change in texture can be unappetizing to some people.
Another reason why the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning zucchini is because there is a risk of botulism.
Botulism is a serious illness that can be caused by eating food that has been contaminated with the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. canned foods are particularly susceptible to botulism because the canning process creates an oxygen-free environment where bacteria can thrive.
A third reason why the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning zucchini is because canned zucchini often tastes bland. This is due to the fact that much of the flavor of zucchini is lost during the canning process.
If you’re looking for a way to preserve zucchini that will taste good, pickling or freezing are often better options than canning.
If you’re interested in canning your own squash, you may be wondering if it’s safe to can other types of squash besides zucchini. The answer is yes, winter squash is fine to eat as long as you have a recipe.
However, summer squash should not be canned unless you are pickling it. This is because the high water content of summer squash can cause the cans to break during the canning process.
If you’re looking for a delicious way to preserve your summer squash crop, pickling is a great option. Otherwise, stick to winter squash for your canning needs.
So if pressure canning zucchini isn’t a great idea, and you can’t safely water bath can it, either, what are your options?
Here are a few ways to safely can your squash zucchini.
Zucchini relish is a great alternative to pressure canning zucchini. It’s easy to make and can be used in a variety of ways, such as on sandwiches or as a topping for burgers or hot dogs.
To make zucchini relish, simply shred zucchini and combine it with chopped onion, sweet pickle relish, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour before serving or canning.
Another alternative to pressure canning zucchini is pickled zucchini. This recipe is similar to the relish recipe above, but it also includes garlic and dill weed.
Simply combine shredded zucchini with chopped onion, garlic, dill weed, white vinegar, sugar, and salt.
If you’re looking for a safe alternative to canning regular zucchini, pineapple zucchini is a great option. This type of zucchini is less likely to harbor harmful bacteria, making it a safer choice for canning. In addition, pineapple zucchini is less likely to become mushy or waterlogged during the canning process.
As a result, your canned pineapple zucchini will retain its shape and texture, making it a great option for dishes like stir-fries or soups.
Here’s a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
The first step in canning zucchini is assembling all of the necessary equipment. You will need:
- A boiling water canner
- Glass jars with lids and rings
- A kitchen timer
- Canning funnel
- Jar lifter
- Towels or oven mitts
- A large pot
- Colander or strainer
Now that you have gathered all of your materials, it’s time to move on to the main event: the ingredients. For most recipes, you will need:
- Fresh zucchini, washed and ends trimmed
- Vinegar (pick your favorite type!)
- Salt (kosher or pickling salt works best)
Other recipes may call for additional ingredients, like various herbs, spices, and even sugar as well. Always read the recipe before getting started to make sure you have everything you need!
If you choose to follow any of the recipes I gave you above for canning zucchini, here are some general tips to follow.
Always pay attention to the individual recommendations for each recipe you’re canning, as they might change these steps slightly – but in general, these are great “all-purpose” instructions to follow.
Clean and Sterilize Your Jars
I either wash the jars in the dishwasher, or in hot, soapy water. Then, I place them in the oven and heat them at 250 degrees. I let them stay hot there while I prepare everything else.
You will also want to sterilize your lids and bands, even if you’re using brand new bands (you should NEVER reuse lids, as the seal won’t be as effective).
To do this, simply bring some hot water to a boil on the stovetop and drop in both the lids and bands. Then, bring the heat to a simmer. This will also help you keep them hot while you’re preparing the jars and ingredients.
Prepare Your Ingredients
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it’s heating up, you can wash the squash, scrubbing it with a vegetable brush to get it extra clean.
Cut the ends off and peel if you prefer it that way. You can then cut the squash into whatever shapes or sizes you need.
The best options are as thick rounds about half an inch thick, or into cubes. You can also spiralize or shred your ingredients, depending on how you plan to use them later on. It also depends on what the individual recipe calls for.
Whatever you do, don’t mash the ingredients before canning. Tests have proven that there are density issues with mashed squash that can prevent adequate heat distribution.
You may choose to blanch the squash before canning as well. This will help preserve some of its freshness, but is not a required step. If you decide to do this, simply dip the squash for two minutes in boiling water.
Prep Your Recipe and Fill the Jars
Once you’ve made your recipe, it’s time to load the mix into hot jars, leaving about an inch of headspace. You can add salt if you prefer, but this is not required. Don’t add more than half of a teaspoon for pints or a teaspoon for quarts, as it will become overly salty over time.
Finish the Jars
To remove air bubbles, press with a wooden spoon or tap the jar gently on the counter. Then, wipe the rim of the jars with a clean, damp cloth, and place the lids and bands on the jars.
Process the Jars
Your next step is to process the jars. I won’t get too specific here, since the processing time will vary depending on whatever recipe you are following.
Let the Jars Cool
Place the jars on clean towels to cool and seal. Try to set them out away from the breeze, as this can cause the jars to crack. You may hear popping noises as the lids seal.
Store the Jars
Canned zucchini will store for several months on end. Signs of spoiled jars include mold or discoloration, although some white residue atop the jars is a normal byproduct of canning.
You can simply wipe it away, then sit back and admire your pretty little jars!
Other Ways to Preserve Zucchini (Besides Canning)
Don’t want to go through the effort of processing and pickling your zucchini? You don’t have to do it. There are other options.
Unfortunately, unlike other kinds of squash (winter squash, namely), zucchini doesn’t last long if it hasn’t been preserved in some way. Butternut and spaghetti squashes, for instance, will last for months in a root cellar or even a dry basement – not the case with zucchini.
However, you have other options. Here are some of my favorites:
- Make zucchini bread
- Freeze shredded zucchini
- Dehydrate the zucchini
- Freeze zucchini whole or in cubes to cook later on
While canning zucchini may be convenient, there are several reasons why the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend it.
The texture of zucchini changes when it’s canned, there is a risk of botulism, and canned zucchini often tastes bland. If you’re looking for a way to preserve zucchini, pickling or freezing are often better options than regular pressure canning.
Now that you have some ideas on how to safely do it, get started! It’s a great way to use up your zucchini harvest and ensure you have lots of this tasty vegetable around to get you through the winter.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.