Canning zucchini, peppers and onions couldn’t be any easier! Delicious sweet-and-sour pickles to serve on bread or as a side dish.
I grew up on pickles. Lots of pickles. Should you have asked me when I was about eight if I’d rather have a chocolate or a pickled green tomato or gherkin, I would have chosen the pickles, always! I remember the tones of pickles my grandmother used to make every autumn when I was a child, she kind of gave up on making them when she got older, but we ate plenty every winter, either from her relatives or bought pickles.
But, during the good years, she used to make gherkins, lots of huge green tomatoes preserved in the largest jars I have ever seen, some of them were as tall as my legs. And then all sorts of paprika: gogosari, which are some kind of round and thick-fleshed red peppers, which I cannot find an English translation for, then she would make the pointed peppers filled with other vegetables, like white cabbage or cauliflower. And then the masterpiece: whole white cabbage heads pickled in a huge blue plastic barrel she kept in the cellar.
And what else did she make? Bulion – which is a delicious runny tomato sauce with celery, used mostly for soups and stews and tomato paste using those large, sweet and delicious Romanian tomatoes. Or pickled beetroots, which I used to love, I should make some myself soon. Pickled carrots and cauliflower, sometimes she would pickle the cauliflower together with the beetroot, so that the cauliflower would turn pink.
Then there were the green beans jars, those with zucchini, those with tiny and really hot peppers to eat with soups, mixed vegetables salads, which I adored. Then the preserved horseradish in vinegar and the hot pepper paste (which was actually a specialty of my aunt).
And not to forget the fruit compotes like this Preserved Apricots and the various sorts of jam, of which the most common were the plum jam or the rose hip jam and the most special ones, which were mostly something my great-grandmother would make: rose jam, green walnut jam and bitter cherry jam. How I used to love those jams!
We would seldom eat any fresh vegetables in winter during my childhood in the communist years of Romania. OK, there were the potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and carrots, which kept well all through the winter, but otherwise we mostly ate the pickles. I remember my grandmother’s delicious Stewed Sauerkraut, similar to this one but made mostly with pork chunks instead of meatballs, her amazing sarmale, either with meat or vegetarian and sometimes made with pickled vine leaves instead of sauerkraut.
Or her tocana de cartofi – potato stew, which we always had with pickles, whatever we happen to have at them moment, everything sour was a perfect fit. I still make that potato stew, a lot, for my family and we still have it with pickles all the time. I cannot even imagine eating it without the pickles. 🙂 So there are mostly gherkins for the kids and sweet-and-sour zucchini or green tomatoes pickles for me and my husband.
I don’t make as much pickles as my grandmother used to make in her time. We are able to buy any kind of fresh vegetables at almost any given moment, so we do not rely on pickles anymore during the winter time. But I still eat them so happily and there isn’t one summer or autumn gone by without me trying to preserve some of the summer produce in one way or another. This year was the horseradish in vinegar, the green tomatoes and the Sweet-and-Sour Zucchini, Pepper and Onion Pickles. Or I should say, these were the savory preserves I have made this year. When it comes to sweet stuff like jam, sirup or preserved fruit I tend to make rather more.
I used some curry powder to make the preserves, which is not something typical Romanian. However, I like adding it to this kind of preserves, it does give everything an extra kick. I had a huge zucchini from a friend’s garden, which I used to make the preserves and because it was so large I preferred to remove the seeds with a spoon, they tend to become floppy and I don’t like that. Do remove them if your zucchini is extra large, but you can leave them if you use regular sized zucchini.
- 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs zucchini
- 500 g/ 1.1 lbs red/yellow/orange bell peppers
- 500 g/ 1.1 lbs onions
- 400 ml/ 13.5 fl.oz/ 1 ¾ cups white wine vinegar
- 350 ml/ 12 fl.oz/ 1 cup water
- 130 g/ 4.6 oz/ 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
Clean the zucchini, halve it and remove the seeds if the zucchini is very large, regular sized zucchini can be left whole. Chop into regular small cubes.
Remove the seeds from the peppers and cut them into cubes as small as the zucchini cubes. Peel the onion, halve it and cut it into half rings.
Pour the white wine vinegar and the water into a large pot. Add the sugar and all the spices and bring the mixture to a boil. When the liquid boils, add all the vegetables, bring to a simmer again and let cook for 5 minutes.
Divide the vegetables into several sterilized jars, the size of your choice, the remaining liquid evenly among the jars. I had 4 ½ jars of 500 ml/ 17 oz capacity. Seal well. For more information on sterilizing jars have a look at this post.
I prefer to leave the vegetables for at least 1 week before starting to eat them. They keep well in the cellar (at least six months), but do keep any open jar in the refrigerator and consume it within two weeks.
The pickles can be eaten on bread with cheese, with cold meats, can be part of a cheese and cold meat platter. Can be also eaten as a side dish for stews, either made with meat or vegetarian stews.
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