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Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 11:35 am

Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles

These zucchini pickles have many applications, but perhaps their best is as a condiment for Cubanos, a Cuban signature sandwich, made with ham, roast pork, Swiss-style cheese, mustard and pickles on a crusty roll, often grilled panini-style.  Many commercial versions use astringent ballpark mustard, dill pickles and (too often) flavorless pork.  But when they’re made with garlicky pork marinated overnight with sour orange juice, Cuban oregano and other Caribbean spices; then slow-roasted for hours (worthy of a column all by itself), garnished with mellow Dijon mustard and pickles such as these zucchini bread-and-butter pickles, they become a sublime sandwich that has few equals.

These tasty pickles also have lots of other uses.  They perk up a salad, especially one tossed with Ranch-style dressing, and they’re an excellent accompaniment on a cheese platter. They also provide a boost of flavor for other sandwiches ranging from cheese and tomatoes, to chicken salad, and thinly sliced roast beef. 
  • 2 1/2 pounds young thin zucchini, no more than an inch and a half in diameter, ends trimmed, and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. (You can use somewhat bigger zucchini, but scrape out the seeds and pith surrounding them; you should have about 2 1/4 lbs. after trimming and seeding.)
  • 1 large white or red onion, NOT super-sweet, thinly sliced.  (At least 2 cups.)
  • 2 T. kosher or pickling salt
  • 2 c. Champagne vinegar, or other mild white vinegar such as unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 two-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
Toss first 3 ingredients in large colander. Place in sink and let drain 2 hours. Rinse vegetables; drain. Scatter the zucchini slices over a large lint-free towel. They don’t need to be in a single layer, but should be spread out so that there’s not more than a couple of layers.  If you don’t have a big enough lint-free towel, use two or more. Roll up the towel(s) and squeeze gently to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in 8-cup glass measuring cup or large bowl.

Bring vinegar and all remaining ingredients to boil in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes. Pour vinegar mixture over zucchini mixture, pressing on vegetables to submerge. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight. Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep pickles chilled.

Makes about 6 cups.
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