Friday, September 25, 2015

spicy pickled carrots

The last couple of years, I've become rather enamored (obsessed? transfixed?) by all things pickled.  Pickling is the simple process of preserving food in a brine containing vinegar.  Once I discovered how easy it was to pickle things myself, I began pickling everything in sight.  I've pickled cauliflower, cukes, kohlrabi, chilies, devil's club buds (particularly proud of that foraged product- Bloody Mary, anyone?). But of all my pickled wonders, these spicy pickled carrots are my very favorite.

Why?  Because they are easy, colorful, and the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy.  My friend Lea introduced me to her recipe, and now I've made several batches of my own.  I eat them straight from the jar, or bring them on picnics and camping trips.  But my most common form of consumption?  I put a few in my styrofoam take-out Taco King container.  Because when I eat carrots along side my beloved lengua tacos, rice and beans, my Mexican comfort food is INSTANTLY transformed into health food!

BAM!  You're welcome.

Have no fear, folks.  These carrots are easy.  They were my first foray into pickling, and once I felt comfortable with the technique I began pickling things in jars with ease.  I'd stick to the brine recipe if I were you, but you can mix up what you put in the jars.  I've put mustard seeds, dill seed heads, peppercorns, fresh thyme sprigs, and bay leaves in mine.  In fact, my next batch might include a few of those.  But for your first time, stick to this recipe and you can't go wrong.

I dug up these pretty little carrots at Pyrah's Farm out in Palmer.  Right now is the PERFECT time to pick up a bag of Alaskan carrots at the farmers' market and knock your self out pickling up a frenzy.  I'm not an expert on preserving so if you'd feel more comfortable with a canning tutorial before you start, check out this link which has some basic information about canning and preserving.  I also love the blog Food in Jars, which has great information as well.  

Time to get pickling!!

Spicy Pickled Carrots
(Adapted from A Safe Kitchen)

4 cups distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons salt (pickling salt if you have it)
4-6 garlic cloves, halved
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut in half or quarters (if they're big), and cut in lengths about 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than the jars

(1) Take apart three new glass pint jars.  Set the screw tops and lids aside. 

(2) Fill a canning pot with water, or use a large pot with a metal sieve on the bottom (that's what I use).  Place 3 pint jars in the pot and bring to a boil- this will sanitize the jars.

(3) Wash the sealing lids with soap and water, then place in a small pot.  Fill the pot with some of the boiling water- this will soften edges of the lids for a better seal.

(4) Make the brine: In a medium sauce pan, bring the white vinegar to a boil.  Add the sugar and salt (I use pickling salt because table salt results in a cloudy brine) and dissolve completely.  Turn down to medium so it doesn't reduce too quickly while you ready the jars.

(5) Pull the jars out of the boiling water (I used to use tongs, but then I invested in a cheap pair of jar lifters which were totally worth the $10) and place hot jars on a towel on the counter.  Divide the garlic cloves and the chili flakes (as many or as few as you like) amongst the jars. Place the carrots in the jars, being careful not to pack them in too tightly.  Pour the brine over the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom.

(6) Place lids and screw tops on jars (using rubber kitchen gloves if you have them- these jars are going to be hot!!) and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  Let cool on the counter overnight, and check seals in the morning. 

They taste better after a week or more, so be patient!  


xo h

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