I do not have a garden, but I have many gardener-type friends, and this means I enjoy free produce in the summer months. Some gifts, like two pounds of blackberries or many ripe tomatoes, are welcome, but a recent offering — a single zucchini — had vague troll vibes.
As you can see in the above Instagram post — which I am including to illustrate scale — this thing was quite large. (You can also see how restrained I’m being about the whole thing, which everyone should appreciate.)
My friend’s reason for giving me this behemoth made sense. “I just want to see what you come up with,” she said, her tone not unchallenging. Huge zukes tend to be bland and watery, with woody seeds and cottony flesh. Cooking one is rarely a sauté-and-enjoy kind of deal. At first I considered treating it like eggplant — maybe making a parm or something — but then I remembered Hamburger Stackers.
Editor's Note: "Huge zukes" are not particularly common in Australia, but on the rare occasions that they do appear, this recipe is ready and waiting for you.
If you're unfamiliar, the premise behind Hamburger Stackers is a simple one, and the above commercial drives it home with 15 seconds and a single word (“duh”). If your pickle is too small for your burger, simply use a bigger pickle. This is the exact opposite of my usual approach, which is to make everything smaller, but something about blanketing an entire burger or sandwich with a single pickle slice is soothing to me.
As luck — or fate — would have it, a slice of this zucchini was exactly the right size for this kind of pickle. But because it was so big and bland, pickling it needed to be a two-step process, starting with a simple salting. Sprinkling a few pinches of salt on each slice, then letting them hang out for half and hour or so, drew out some of the excessive moisture, softened the flesh (and seeds), and infused a little flavour.
Then a bread and butter brine was applied, as I have been craving ham sandwiches recently, and bread and butter pickles are transcendent with salty ham. (You can use any brine recipe you like, just make sure to pre-salt as described.) The pickles I took out of the fridge were pliable yet crisp, seasoned but not outright salty, and large enough to cover any sandwich or burger. To make these absolute stackers yourself, you will need:
About 1kg worth of zucchini
Salt (about 1/4 teaspoon per slice)
One head of garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Slice the zucchini into 1/8th-inch thick slices, then sprinkle each side of each slice with about 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt. Place all the slices in a bowl, and let them sit for half an hour. About 15 minutes in, give the slices a stir so the top slices become the bottom slices. Once the zucchini has lost any and all stiffness, drain the salty water away and transfer the slices to a large jar, along with the garlic.
Add the remaining ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved, then pour the hot brining liquid over the zucchini. Cover the jar loosely, let everything come to room temperature, then close the jar and place it in the fridge overnight to chill.