You know how sometimes you are in exactly the right place at the right time and all the planets align so you get to buy perfect, and I do mean perfect, produce for next to nothing per pound? I went to the Farmer's Market and found squash. I think I heard the angel's sing when I first saw the truck. It might have been the most perfect squash I have ever seen. According to the farmer and his wife it had been picked by moonlight ( ok by spotlight) at 11 pm the night before I was there to jump on it. It came in a huge box and all their box weights were between 22-25 pounds. All for a mere $15 dollars. Seemed more than reasonable and when I looked at it, it did not appear to be a lot of squash. I not only bought it ( did I mention it was perfect?) but was also a super steward of the environment. I had several of the Publix green bags in the car and transferred the squash to the bags, leaving the box for the farmers to refill and reuse. So far so good right? And it was good until I put the perfect squash in the car and started home.
When I filled 2 Publix cloth bags to overflowing I should have realized I was in trouble, but no, not me. Somehow during the brief car ride from Findley Avenue to my house there was a strange happening. The squash which looked so manageable in the box on the back of a pick-up truck had multiplied and created more squash all the way home. There was freakish display of squash fertility right in the back seat of my very own car.
What originally looked like it would be enough for supper one night and 5 or so bags for the freezer turned into a giant hill of squash on my kitchen table. It was also close to supper time and I had to do something with Veggie Mountain so we could eat. But where could I put it since I had no room in the fridge for 2 million pounds of squash. The last thing I wanted to do right then was tend to squash. Perhaps I should have thought of that before the purchase, huh? I stared at it for several minutes and not one of those crookneck buzzards began any sort of self processing, so the only thing for me to do was to get a lot of it ready for freezing. Besides at the rate it was increasing I was afraid to leave it untended overnight. No telling how much I would have had the next morning.
I began a single person assembly line, first washing , then peeling ( my mother in law's trick of running a knife over the surface of the squash to get the "squeak" out of the skin), then slicing then blanching, then packing, and finally putting it all in the freezer. After 9 quarts I was finished for the night, but I still had over half of the blooming squash to finish the next day. It was more than I had room to store, so I took the smallest most tender pieces and put them in the fridge and left the slightly larger ones on a tray to fend for themselves until the next morning.
After a few early morning errands, it was back to the task of reducing the size of the squash pile. More washing, scraping, slicing, and brining and I was well on my way to making squash pickles. I was not honestly sure if I even liked squash pickles or not, but it was something different to try, and it would eliminate some of the vegetable volume. Desperate times/ desperate measures!
16 cups of sliced squash
4 cups sliced onions
1/2 cup canning salt
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons celery seed
2 teaspoons ground tumeric
In a large bowl or pot mix the squash and the onions. Sprinkle with the salt and stir to mix well. Cover completely with water and let it swim for a couple of hours. Drain well and just leave it in a bowl ( extremely large bowl) while you make the syrup.
In a large pot bring the 4 cups of vinegar and the sugar to a boil. Add the mustard seed, celery seed and tumeric and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir well and add the well drained squash and onion mixture. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
(For complete directions on water canning see here ) Pack into sterile canning jars leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Top with sterile lids and screw rings . Screw the caps finger tight and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove the jars from the hot water with a jar lifter and place on a towel on the countertop. Leave them alone until you hear the "PING' sound of the jars sealing. Store in a cool dark place for up to one year. And now you have 8 pints or 16 half pints of squash pickles.
There are an extremely easy pickle to make. The taste is close to a bread and butter pickle, but the squash is a bit softer than cucumber slices and the onion pieces give a crisp counter balance to the texture of the squash. If you like a sweet/tart pickle I would say give them a try.
I am one squash casserole away from being done with all of the squash. Woo Hoo! Now that I have taken care of it I still have more peaches and plums to do something with. I think my head is much more ambitious ( delusional?) than the parts of me that actually do the work. And the worst thing is I am seriously thinking of going back to the Farmer's Market on Monday. After all, I couldn't find nice okra and I am positive there is a basket of it with my name on it somewhere.