To say I have a close and loving relationship with the color orange is a slight understatement. Where some people use beige, navy or ivory as a go-to neutral, tangerine, pumpkin and marigold usually sneak their way into that slot, overtaking my wardrobe and home. “How many orange things do you have in your kitchen?” marveled a recent dinner guest overwhelmed by the mixing bowls, spatulas, towels, sugar bowls, scrubbies, cutting boards, stand mixers, and blenders color-matching the four (orange) walls.
I even tried to turn myself orange long before Snooki brought her A-game to the self-tanning booth. It’s family legend that my discerning toddler palate refused vegetables in any other shade, so my mom fed me carrots and sweet potatoes by the pound until she realized the beta carotene overload was turning her daughter the color of an Oompa Loompa.
My relationship with carrots since then hasn’t been quite so sympatico. At some point, my taste for their gentle sweetness went sour and carrots became not much more than a boring and bland amateur add-on to a salad or the necessary flavoring agent for many a stock. I threw some into risotto for color and shredded a bunch into spaghetti sauce, but probably ate more raw carrots at Buffalo Wild Wings than I did in my own home over the past decade.
Last summer, having planted a bigger crop of carrots than the husband could eat on his own, I pickled a pound on a whim. Suddenly I noticed how much sprightlier my tuna salad tasted with a few coins minced and folded in, how much peppier a panzanella became when a handful of slices were thrown on top. I decided that all carrots I consumed henceforth would be in pickle form, except for those which were allowed to remain nude and un-vinegared alongside a big old basket of buffalo wings. And so this summer’s entire crop of carrots was planted for the express purpose of pickling.
A carrot fresh from the ground really does have a whole ‘nother level of flavor that’s lacking in the plastic-bagged brothers at the grocery store, and growing your own carrots gives you the added bonus of choosing what size, shape and color you’d like your pickled veg to be. Round Thumbelinas? Little finger carrots? Purple or yellow versions? Lazy gardeners like myself who don’t thin out the herd after transplanting will end up with a few wiggly little carrots that grew around the straighter, larger roots, and which bear an uncanny resemblance to the poor unfortunate souls transformed by Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid.
So, unless you’re Tracy over at Sugarcrafter and inexplicably immune to the charms of a pickled carrot, grab a bunch at the farmer’s market this week and throw them in this 10-minute brine. The jars can be water bath canned for non-refrigerated storage, but I simply keep mine in the fridge year-round with no ill side effects.
Those of us lucky enough to have ample dill in the garden that’s probably gone to seed at this point in the year can also benefit from a tip courtesy of Jessie Knadler, co-author of Tart and Sweet, and use the flowering heads of dill for a more intense flavor. See? Once again, lazy gardening saves the day.
Cook time: 10 minutes
Makes 2 quart-sized jars
- 1 quart (4 cups) distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns or grains of paradise
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 4 sprigs of dill
- 2 long sprigs of tarragon
- 2 pounds carrots, cut into bite-size pieces or slices if desired
Wash and rinse 2 quart-sized Mason jars (or other glass jars that will fit your carrots).
In a stockpot, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, peppercorns/grains of paradise, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Place 2 garlic cloves, 2 sprigs of dill and 1 sprig of tarragon in each jar, then fill with carrots. Pour the warm brine into the jars to fill completely; you may have extra brine left over.
Keep the jars refrigerated, or water bath can the jars. Though technically refrigerator pickles will keep pickling slowly as they sit in a chilled environment, I’ve kept my batches for 6-8 months without any terrible oversalted results. A larger-sized carrot chunk will pickle more slowly than a slice, but will also keep longer than a smaller chunk, so keep that in mind.