09 June 2010


I'm a sucker for a good pickle. (Yes, Leah, I wrote that line just for you). Like my Eastern European/Russian forbearers, I consider the pickle to be much more than simply a side act to the sandwich. Whether we're talking a garlicky, crispy dill with pastrami, chopped slivers of cornichon gracing a potato salad, or even the essential relish in my mom's signature tuna, in my opinion pickles deserve top billing.

Lately, much to my delight, I've noticed pickles of all stripes popping up on restaurant menus and in the pages of fancy food magazines. At hipper-than-thou Austin establishments, quick pickled red onions top burgers, and house-made pickled cukes grace many a side. Pickling things, long considered an activity fit only for bubbes, seems to be a part of the growing vogue for canning and preserving amongst the food-minded, DIY folk of my generation. New books on pickling and canning line bookstore virtual shelves faster than you can shake a stick (or dill spear) at them. This, as you might imagine, makes me very happy. And eager to join in the fun!

Despite our collective love of pickles, the Masons haven't done much pickling at home and have always been exceedingly brand loyal to the Claussen Kosher Dill ("the world's most excellent pickle"). Content with our Claussens, forays into home pickling were strictly limited to my mom's summertime canning of "dilly beans" and the occasional bumper pepper crop. When I rope my mom into canning some garden-fresh beans for me this summer, I'll be sure to record the process and share it with you here. If you've never had a spicy, dill-infused pickled green bean, you're missing out!

Lacking the patience and the shelf space for an extensive pickling/canning project myself, I've recently experimented with quick pickling (also known as refrigerator pickling). Happily, quick pickles don't require all the sterilizing and boilings of 'real' pickles and the result is just as satisfying. A few lackluster experiments with apple cider vinegar and soggy cucumbers got me off to a rough start but I think I finally hit the jackpot with these pickled carrots.

Going into this rather blindly, I was aiming for somewhere between giardiniera and escabeche--lots of vinegary tang, balanced by a tiny bit of sweetness, and some spice. And, miracle of miracles, that's exactly how they turned out! The best part is that they took almost no time to make and tasted delicious after only a day in the fridge! In a week I've eaten my way through more than half the jar. Tasty eaten alone as a snack (who needs measly baby carrots when these savory treats grace your refrigerator shelf?), they're also great in California rolls and alongside cheese quesadillas. Next on my agenda is a riff on an appetizer of boiled eggs topped with pickled carrot and chive blossoms served at Franny's in Brooklyn, written about in this post--the original inspiration for my pickled carrot experiment.

I'm seeing a lot of carrots in my future this summer folks! Hope you like the smell of vinegar!

Spicy Pickled Carrots
1.5 cups water
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
5 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 bag carrots (one pound??) or about 6 medium to large carrots
1/2 or 1 whole white or yellow onion, peeled and sliced
2 large cloves garlic (or more if you like garlic), peeled
about 6 or so spicy pickled peppers (peperoncini)
medium size glass jar with tight-fitting lid or other glass or heavy-duty plastic container with tight lid

**use this recipe merely as a guide--feel free try pickling other veggies or changing proportions to suit your tastes

Bring the water to a low boil and add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved and remove from heat. Add vinegar, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes and set aside to cool a bit. Put a pot of water large enough to hold all the carrots on to boil. Meanwhile, rinse, trim, and peel carrots and cut into desired shape (I prefer thick matchsticks). When water boils add carrots and blanch for no more than 3 minutes, then drain them in a colander, immerse in an ice-water bath for a few minutes(keeps them crisp and bright), and then drain again.

Place some of the onions, the garlic, and a few peppers in bottom of jar or container. Add about half the carrots on top, then the rest of the onions/peppers and top with remaining carrots. Pour vinegar and spice mixture over the veggies and be sure to cover them completely (if you have a small jar you may have too much liquid--that's fine, you just don't want too little). Cover and refrigerate. Your pickles will be ready to eat in day or two and will get a little stronger the longer you keep them. If you manage to not eat them immediately, as long as you keep them refrigerated and don't go digging around in the jar with grubby fingers, your pickles will keep for several weeks.

1 comment:

LaLaLaLeah said...

Thanks for the winner of an opening sentence, Nisa! I'm honored. Also honored to have tried one of the aforementioned carrotickles (pronounced: "care-rot-tickles") and all I can say is, "yes ma'am!" De-lish! And addictive! More please!