It’s always been my challenge to take a vegetable someone in my family doesn’t like and discover how to change their mind via an interesting recipe. I call them gateway recipes. For instance, I introduced my children to kale by making a cheesy kale gratin. Yes, it was laden with cream and cheese, but they loved it, and were open to eating kale in other forms. Now they even beg for kale chips.
My latest challenge was the carrot.
My 10-year-old doesn’t like them, and it’s annoying because carrots are a healthy, inexpensive ingredient in soups, chilies and salads. I recently purchased a 50-pound bag of carrots for $15, and while it was necessary to employ creativity in “putting them up,” I also felt a burning need to woo my daughter into liking carrots in some form. Carrot cake was a copout and didn’t count. So I made carrot pickles, and wow, she couldn’t get enough. My 7-year old liked them as well, even though they have a kick.
I made two kinds of carrot pickles — one was spicy and the other mild. I also made these into refrigerator pickles, but also water-bath canned some. If you aren’t into canning and get a deal on carrots, you can buy half-gallon Ball jars and make a large batch for the refrigerator. My daughter actually prefers them as refrigerator pickles.
Of course I didn’t make 50 pounds of carrot pickles, although I’m sure my daughter wishes I had. I froze some in different forms, including shreds. I shredded carrots fine for coleslaw and thick for stir-fries.
So I could access them in portions, I packed them in muffin tins and popped them out when they were frozen, storing them in gallon freezer bags. I also froze them in slices for roasting, soups and side dishes. I vacuum-sealed them into portions to fit a family of four.
I had always blanched my carrots before freezing and canning, but this time I opted to freeze them raw, and raw pack. The product is much better. I also dehydrated some carrots, but you must blanch these first, otherwise they will fade in color after about nine months.
Canning carrots was a given, but I had gone so crazy in preserving my carrots in other forms, I had only had enough left to can 8 pints of carrots in water. Fifty pounds sounds like a lot, but once they were peeled and processed, it wasn’t an over-the-top amount to last us several months.
The carrot pickles would make an interesting gift for someone and a delightful offering at a cook out. We often eat them with our lunches or just as a healthy snack. Make them two ways — spicy and mild — and see what your family likes. Next stop, pickled turnips.
The ratios might not be exact because much depends on how you cut your carrots and how tightly you pack them, which will determine how much brine will fill your jar. You might end up with more brine, in which case, cut more carrots.
Pickle Crisp is a Ball product that helps your pickled vegetables maintain a crisper texture. Pickling salt is a very fine salt and dissolves easily. You can find both in the grocery store’s canning section.
Sterilize canning jars in boiling water. Place lids and rings in a separate bowl and cover with hot water until ready to use.
6 pounds of carrots, washed, peeled and cut into lengthwise pieces in about half-inch thickness; the length should be one inch shorter than the jars
12 cups white vinegar
3 cups of sugar
Red pepper flakes
9 cloves of garlic (or one clove per jar)
Prepare carrots and set aside. Combine vinegar, sugar, quarter cup pickling spice, 2 teaspoons of pickling salt and 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, dissolving sugar. In each pint jar, add one clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp. of Pickle Crisp, 1 tsp. pickling spice, 1/8 tsp. pickling salt, and 1/4 tsp. dried dill. Add red pepper flakes according to taste. I added 1/4 tsp. to my jars. Pack carrots tightly into jars. Pour hot brine into jars over carrots, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and secure with lids and rims. Return jars to pot of hot water and bring to a boil.
(Note: If you are new to canning, it might not occur to you that you must take some of the water out of the pot since the jars going back in the water have more weight now. Make sure your jars are covered by an inch of hot water.)
Place lid on pot. Once water has reached boiling, start a timer for 15 minutes and process. After the 15 minutes, remove jars from pot and allow to completely cool and until lids have popped down. When jars are cool (it’s usually recommended to let them sit for 24 hours before moving), take off rims and wipe down to ensure jars are clean before storing.
If you have leftover carrots and brine, but not enough to fill a jar, simply store in the refrigerator.
Laura Woolfrey-Macklem is a former North County resident who produces the Preserved Home blog. Visit www.preservedhome.com. Send questions and comments to [email protected]