Pickled Carrots and a Quick Brine Recipe

pickled carrots

Back when I made the pickled asparagus, I ended up having some brine leftover after I filled the jars. Not wanting to be wasteful, I poured what remained into a quart jar and shoved it towards the back of the fridge, to use another day. Over the weekend, I finally put it to good use.

I trimmed and quartered a pound of carrots, blanched them briefly (for no more than 15 seconds, as I didn’t want them to lose their crunch) and packed them into a wide mouth quart jar. Then I brought the brine to a quick boil and poured it in on top of the carrots. Several days later, they are piquant and a little bit spicy (I tucked a long red pepper into the jar along with the carrots).

quart of carrots

I did not do a hot water process with these pickles and instead chose to keep them in the fridge. I did this for several reasons. The first is that it’s not advisable to use reboiled brine for shelf-safe pickles. Part of the reason that pickled vegetables are safe to eat after a hot water process is that the acidity of the vinegar keeps the nasty bacteria at bay. Regular canned vegetables, the ones that aren’t pickled, must be pressure canned to be safe. I knew that my leftover brine was plenty vinegary in terms of making my carrots taste amazing. However, I didn’t know whether the level of acidity was adequate in terms of keeping those carrots shelf-safe. So I decided to go the safe route, skip the water bath and opt for refrigeration as my means of preservation.

chopping carrots

Additionally, sometimes I just want to make pickles, without hauling out a canning pot. Making a single jar with some leftover brine means that I can do just that. It took all of ten minutes to make those pickled carrots and now I have something delicious to go with soup, a sandwich, salad or just munched alone (and since the pickled asparagus I made a few weeks back is long gone) for the next week or so.

For those of you who don’t have some extra brine sitting around your fridge, here’s a quick formula for making a small batch of brine, so that you can make just one or two jars of pickles at a time.

I know it reads like a lot of steps to follow, but really, it takes no time. So go pickle something already.

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Fresh Radish Storage

radishes in a jar

Up until a couple of years ago, radishes were something I mostly just ignored. As far as I was concerned, they were fairly tasteless orbs (except for the occasional one that was painfully spicy) that were best ignored or crunched over quickly in restaurant salads.

I was of that mind until I had my first brush with regular farmers market shopping three summers ago. It was there that I started seeing fresh radishes, with their greens still attached, in all colors of red, pink and white. At about that same time, I spotted a flurry of blog posts suggesting that radishes were best eaten with salt and butter, either straight or on a slice of chewy bread. Once I tried them that way, I was instantly hooked.

Radishes became a staple on my mental farmers market shopping list and I would grab a bunch with every visit. The one problem I found myself encountering was that occasionally, they’d lose their signature crunch before I had a chance to finish off the bundle. Happily, someone (I think it was a Slashfood reader, but the source escapes me right now) passed along a wonderfully helpful storage tip for radishes that I’ve been employing ever since.

After you do your shopping, if you know you’re not going to be able to get to your radishes right away, trim them of their greens and put them in a jar. Put enough water in the jar to cover the radishes and store it in the fridge. They’ll keep for a good 4-5 days this way without losing any of their crunch or flavor (of course, the most satisfying way to eat a radish is while holding onto the greens, like Bugs Bunny with his carrot. You will miss that particularly tactile pleasure, but it’s a small trade-off).

Or, if you really want to go crazy, you could pickle your radishes so that they’ll last far into the fall or winter… (recipe coming soon).

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Grape Catchup Winners

grape-winner

We’ve got winners! Big thanks to all of you who commented on the Grape Catchup post (I was a little afraid nobody would want such an esoteric and weird-sounding condiment). I’ve had a bit more time to play around with it since I first posted about it and I can happily say that it tastes amazing drizzled on top of goat cheese (on taster said that it tasted like Christmas). I also think it would work nicely as the base of a vinaigrette, whisked together with some cider vinegar and some olive oil.

I’ll be sending jars out to Aaron and Marcy. Congratulations you two!

French loaf

For those of you who didn’t win, definitely consider cooking up a batch of this for yourself, as it’s quite delicious and very versatile.

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Grape Catchup

clean grapes

I have something of a problem when it comes to vintage cookbooks. I can’t walk by a used bookstore or thrift store without stopping in to scan for some interesting new title. Some I buy just for their kitsch factor, but I find that many older cookbooks I pick up haven’t lost their utility to age and have quite a lot to offer, particularly for a girl who’s interesting in reviving the waning art of canning.

One of my favorite volumes is the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. It was originally published in 1972 and was written by long-time NYT food writer Jean Hewitt (she also wrote the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which was a staple of my childhood). It’s an unembellished book, but it manages to capture the many distinct faces of regional food that were once present in this country (fast food, national grocery brands and TV have homogenized us in so many ways).

5~ cups grapes

I pulled it off the shelf a couple of nights ago, in my search for pickled lime recipes. While it didn’t yield any helpful recipes in that direction, I discovered a very intriguing recipe for something called Grape Catchup (yes, spelled just like that) in the Mountain/Northern Plains section (the book is organized by region of the country). It seemed both easy, calling for nothing more than grapes, apple cider vinegar, sugar and spices, and strangely appealing.

I made it last night, filling the apartment with the pungent smell of hot, fruity vinegar (sounds like the name of a band made up of pickle makers). What came out was a really tangy, sweet/sour condiment that would make a great dipping sauce (I also think it would be amazing on baked chicken or roasted pork – oh god, a pulled pork sandwich with this instead of bbq sauce would be amazing). It has sort of a runny consistency, as the recipe doesn’t call for any pectin or thickener beyond the grape skins (which do contain some natural pectins).

Grape Catchup

Being that I now have four pints of this grape catchup in seven separate jars, I’m giving away two half-pint jars to a couple of lucky readers. If you want to try this tasty condiment that you absolutely won’t be able to find on your grocery store shelves, leave a comment by Sunday at 5 pm. And, if you want to make a batch yourself, the recipe is after the jump.

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Pondering Pickled Limes

Pickled lemons

Awhile back, I caught the tail end of a Twitter conversation in which many folks were discussing memories of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. During the back and forth, the subject of pickled limes came up, as they related to the moment in the story when Amy has her precious limes taken away and her hands beaten for bringing them to school. A suggestion was made that someone (cough, cough, Marisa, cough) try their hand at making some pickled limes.

I remember that book fondly as well (although I’ve always been more enamored with the chapter in Little Men when a young girl is given the gift of a miniature stove and kitchen set and taught to prepare tiny meals. It is a true foodie delight) and was always curious about those pickled limes over which Amy was paddled.

Mrs. Beeton's

I’ve taken up the project (I’m highly suggestible) of finding a way to make a batch similar to which Amy would have eaten, and while there’s much mention of pickled limes on the internet, there’s not much in the way of consensus as to how exactly her limes would have been prepared. I’ve consulted the knowledgeable Mrs. Beeton, and she offered two recipes for pickled lemons (and as far as I can tell, preparation would probably have been identical for limes). However one recipe calls for the lemons/limes to be pickled with the peels on, while the other has the cook remove the peel.

For those of you who are as curious about this as I am, what do you think? Peels on or peels off?

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A Winner, a Book and Some Links

pasta in jars

Last Friday, I offered up a copy of Catherine Friend’s memoir A Compassionate Carnivore as a fun little giveaway until I have a fresh batch of jam ready to go. I’m a little behind posting the winner, but better late than not at all, right? The random number generator spat out the number five, which corresponds the comment left by Holly, the blogger over at The Unintended By-Products of Domestic Bliss. Hooray Holly!

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A couple of months back, I heard tell of a book that sounded very much like one I hoped to write someday. Called, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, it tries to make jams, pickles, basic salumi and other kitchen crafts accessible and available to the people out there who have never committed fruit to jar, or veg to brine. When I got my hands on a review copy, I was delighted by the book (and relieved to see that it wasn’t entirely the same volume I imagined myself writing on the topic). I have yet to cook or craft anything out of it yet (mostly because I’ve been happily making up my own recipes of late), but I’ve been keeping it on my coffee table for inspiration, as well as a reminder to write about it.

Another reminder that this book deserved a mention came today, when I noticed that Erin (of Erin Cooks!) had made the Toaster Tarts on page 98. Erin did a great job with the recipe, altering it slightly from the neat squares that author Karen Solomon recommends to charming heart cut-outs.

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I’ve had a couple of open pages in my browser for weeks now and it’s time to finally commit their links to this blog, so that I can close those tabs without forgetting their contents. Both are from Kevin of Closet Cooking and, if you’re like me, fond of both mangos and putting food in jars, they are most certainly for you as well. The first is a recipe for an aromatic and spicy Mango Chutney and the second is a Mango and Cardamom Jam. Don’t they sound good? Both have been added to my “Must Make” list (which grows longer by the day).

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