You know that time-old adage “when someone accidentally brings home a five-pound bag of carrots from the grocery store instead of a one-pound bag, make pickles”? Well, good news: Summer is pickle season! And pickled carrots are just the thing to make on a hot Friday late afternoon. The recipe comes from Ms. Molly and I wish I had the charming Beatrix Potter-esque carrots that she used but I just made carrot sticks. The good old kind that my mom would put on the dinner table every night in a small yellow cup filled with water to keep them crisp.
There is something about making a pickling brine that satisfies this part of my being I didn’t know existed until recently. It’s something basic and primal- maybe my Iowa roots- but you can’t beat the hazy glow of vinegar that hangs in the air while you crack peppercorns and wash quart-sized jars.
Half-moon watched later that night from his perch on the kitchen floor as we listened to the Brewers on the radio and I packed the carrots into jars and stuck them in the refrigerator. In a week we could crunch into the garlicky, tangy pickles.
Spicy Pickled Carrots with Garlic and Thyme
This recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life.
2 cups apple cider vinegar, plus more for topping jars
2 cups water, plus more for topping jars
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 (5- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Heaping 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Heaping 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1 1/2 pounds small (finger-sized) carrots, or standard carrots, cut into sticks about 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, thyme, garlic, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt, and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup vinegar.
Put the carrots in a large, heatproof bowl, and pour the warm brine over them. Cool to room temperature. While the carrots cool, wash 2 quart-sized canning jars and their lids in warm, soapy water.
When the carrots and brine are cool, distribute the carrots evenly among the jars, arranging them snugly. (Hands and finger work best for this; tongs make a mess.) Using a ladle, divide the brine evenly among the jars. The carrots should be covered completely by brine. If they are not, add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water to cover.
Seal firmly and refrigerate for at least 3 days, or, preferably, a week; carrots are dense and take time to absorb the brine.
Note: Covered and refrigerated, pickled carrots will, in theory, last indefinitely, but we try to eat them within a month or two.
Yield: 2 quarts