Zucchine Sott’olio: Zucchini Preserved in Oil
Preserving food in olive oil is an Italian tradition. If you have had the pleasure of perusing an Italian deli (visit this one if you are ever in Boston!), you probably noticed jars of eggplant, mushrooms, chiles, sweet peppers, artichokes and/or zucchini covered in oil lining the shelves. Since most of us don’t have the pleasure of living close to an authentic deli, we just gotta do it ourselves. I’ll admit, the multiple steps made me leery, but I promise, it is easy and well worth it! And no, you can’t simply pour olive oil over any random piece of produce. Follow the simple steps below to ensure your preserves last.
Here are the basics you need to follow in order to safely preserve produce under oil:
- Use fresh, blemish-free produce: don’t preserve anything you wouldn’t eat fresh.
- Salt, dehydrate and/or acidify: any vegetable preserved in oil needs to be processed in some way to draw out moisture and make it acidic in order to kill or inhibit microorganisms. Some recipes will use a combination of these methods, as does the one below.
- Cover with oil: make sure your produce is completely submerged in oil. Also, use the best quality oil you can afford as the produce will pick up its flavor.
- Store in the refrigerator: despite what Nonna tells you, it is best to store these preserves in the refrigerator. Be sure to mark each jar and consume within the time stated.
I have looked through numerous recipes and some are much more time intensive. I found one example where the zucchini were salted overnight and then set out to dry for a couple of days before topping with oil. I am sure the long salting time along with the extended drying (you are removing moisture in both steps) would allow you to keep your produce for longer. However, since I am only making a quart here, I have no doubt it will be gone within a few months. If you are planning to make a really large batch, then you might want to get more intense.
Zucchine Sott'olio: Zucchini Preserved in Oil
Adapted from Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti
Aleppo Spiced Oil
Add oil and spices together in a small saucepan, cover and heat over medium-low until just starting to simmer, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow spices to infuse the oil for at least an hour, longer if possible.
Layer the zucchini in a colander set over the sink, sprinkling lightly with salt as you go. Place a heavy object on the top to weigh it down (I used canning jars). Let stand for 1 hour, then pat the slices dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towels.
Combine the vinegar, water, and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the salt. Add the zucchini, using a wooden spoon to submerge it in the brine. Cover and boil until the zucchini slices have lost their bright green color, about 3 minutes. Remove the slices from the brine and lay them on clean kitchen towels to dry for 1 to 2 hours.
Layer the dry zucchini in a quart sized canning jar and pour Aleppo oil over the top. You should have just enough to cover the zucchini but if not, pour over additional oil. Screw the lids on tightly and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Check to make sure the zucchini remains completely covered; if not, add more oil.
Let the zucchini cure in the refrigerator for 1 week before using, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. To serve, remove from the jar only as much as you plan to use and let it come to room temperature. Top off the jar as necessary to keep the zucchini submerged.
You can completely skip the first step and just use plain ol' olive oil. I just wanted to experiment and try something different.