Zucchini rum: Maybe it just needs some aging

August 26, 1998|By Rob Kasper

WHEN LAST WE left the fat zucchini, they were hanging in a pillowcase from the rafters of the back porch.

The saga of the suspended zucchini began last week when I scooped out some wide-bodied zucchini, filled them with sugar, stuffed them in a pillowcase and waited for them to ferment. The idea, pulled from a cookbook, was to make a zucchini rum that would drip from the pillowcase and be collected in a bowl. That process has now been completed and has produced two notable results. First, it has brought forth a liquid. And second, it has done away with several large zucchini, the kind that most gardeners have an abundance of every August.

The question now being considered is what to do with this liquid, this zucchini rum.

Several suggestions come to mind, among them, using it as antifreeze or paint thinner.

When I started this project, I thought I would end up with something good to drink. But after examining what I have produced, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to swallow much of it.

My zucchini rum is yellow and frothy and has an aroma that reminds you of being downwind of a brewery.

The other day I did screw up enough courage to dip my finger in the stuff. I was relieved to see that when I removed my finger from the rum, my skin and fingernail were still intact. Moreover, after I tasted my rum-coated finger, I did not, as my wife predicted, go blind.

One lick was enough. The flavor profile of my zucchini rum could be described as having sugary opening notes, no body and an industrial-strength finish. Another way of describing it would be a simple syrup meets Mr. Clean.

Members of my family have been reluctant to get close to the rum, let alone taste it. "Nasty!" said one of the kids when he caught a whiff of the solution.

My wife was willing to help me pour some of the solution into glass jars for safekeeping. But she couldn't resist letting out a cheer when I poured the remainder of the mixture down the drain. She seemed relieved that most of the rum was gone and that the solution had not eaten holes in the stainless-steel bowl it had occupied.

I kept two glass jars of the rum and put them in the refrigerator. They look more like medical samples than beverages. Perhaps the rum will improve with age, like a fine wine, a good municipal bond or a compost pile.

In the meantime, friends of large zucchini have passed along several suggestions for what I can do with the excess of the big green vegetables. One suggestion came from Menetta Eitemiller of Northwest Baltimore. She proposed slicing the big boys and cooking them in a skillet with margarine, onions and tomatoes, and topping them with basil. She sent me her recipe, which is printed below.

I'll try this zucchini recipe before I try making more rum. My rum did attract followers. The trouble is that most of the fans of the rum had wings. Thanks to the fermenting zucchini, our back porch looked as if it was playing host to a national convention of fruit flies.

The other morning, when I took down the zucchini-stuffed pillowcase and put it in a trash bag, many of the flies began stirring. They buzzed around the rum's former resting spot, performing aerial maneuvers that I like to think were the fruit-fly equivalent of the flyovers that armed-forces pilots engage in when paying tribute to a fallen friend.

As for the fermenting fat zucchini, the last time I saw them they were being tossed into the back of a city sanitation truck. They were still potent, still bubbling away. For the next few days I plan to check the news for reports of an exploding trash truck.

Menetta Eitemiller's Zucchini

Makes 4 servings

1 stick margarine or butter

1 large onion, sliced

1 pint canned tomatoes or equal amount of skinned, fresh tomatoes

2 large zucchini, sliced

dried basil to taste

Melt margarine in large frying pan, add onions and tomatoes, then fill pan with sliced zucchini (no need to peel them). Sprinkle liberally with basil and cook, stirring often until zucchini is tender when stuck with a fork, usually about 20 to 30 minutes.

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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