Recipe: Spicy pickled carrots

I've had the canning bug pretty bad for the last week or two. But although Spring has officially begun, our garden is months away from producing anything worth turning into jam, pickles, or other home-canning treasures. Plus, farmers' markets and produce stands are still closed for the season.

harvest
Summer harvests can be beautiful. Photo by Kris.

I've been trying to fill my need by making lemon curd while citrus is in cheap and I have access to lovely jade-green duck eggs from our friends' ducks. But lemon curd goes in the freezer to await our strawberry and blueberry crops; it doesn't fulfill my canning craving.

So, although I usually don't advise buying food from the grocery store to process for home canning projects, I do make a few exceptions. These spicy pickled carrots are one of J.D.'s new favorite things — which is good, since it's nearly impossible to get that man to eat vegetables — and they disappear quickly when I take them to share at a potluck or picnic. J.D.'s brother recently declared me “the queen of all things pickled” — he got a jar of pickled ginger green beans last Christmas and a jar of these carrots is destined for his stocking in 2011. And since carrots and vinegar are the main ingredients, these are a fairly high-nutrition, low-calorie snack.

Dilly Beans
Kris's prize-winning dilly beans. Photo by Amy Jo.

Carrots are available year-round at the grocery store, with little impact on the price regardless of season, so they're an economical project whenever you have a chance to give them a try. They're also one of the crops that doesn't do well in our garden's soil, so I feel less conflicted about buying them — even during the harvest months.

Commercial jars of fancy pickled carrot sticks go for as much as $8 in the store. You may also find cans of pickled carrot slices in the Hispanic food section of your store or in an ethnic grocery; in our area those run about $4 for a can that's a bit smaller than a pint jar. Even counting the cost of the lid (and part of the cost of the jars, which I reuse many times), I can make a pint of these carrots for about $1.50/jar.

Note: This recipe is my adaptation of “Spicy Carrots” in Put ‘em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, which a friend loaned to me (Thanks, Courtney!).

I can these pickled in a boiling water bath and store them in the pantry. But if you have room in your refrigerator, you can save time and even more money by simply re-using old mayonnaise or pickle glass jars with their original lids. These will easily keep 4 months in the fridge; at our house, they don't last that long.

This recipe makes seven pints, but you can scale it up or down. I've tried it with “baby” carrots, but I think full-size carrots, peeled and cut into sticks or slices, look much more attractive. You can substitute other types of peppers if you like things really hot — or not so much — and the punch of garlic here is pretty low-key, so feel free to add more if garlic is your thing.

This recipe takes less than two hours from start to finish; in canning season I typically make these when I already have the canner boiling for jam or applesauce and it only adds about an hour to add a batch of these. But in the midst of the Oregon rain and gloom, which we call Spring, I'll gladly dig out my canning supplies to create sunny jars of tangy, brilliantly-colored carrot pickles. And I am satisfied.

I'd love to hear how other folks get their preserving-fix during the off season!

Spicy Pickled Carrots
Ingredients:
5 pounds of full-sized carrots, peeled and cut4 jalapenos peppers, with seeds, halved lengthwise down the middle
14 whole cloves
2-1/3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
7 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed slightly5 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 Tbsp. pickling salt

Method:
You will need 7 pint jars (or 3 quarts and 1 pint), preferably wide-mouthed. Into each pint jar, put 1/2 a jalapeno pepper, 2 whole cloves, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, and one clove of crushed garlic.

Start a large canning pot so that it is boiling and ready when the carrots are all packed into jars. Be sure to start with adequate water to completely submerge the jars by about an inch. Put the lids and rings in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; turn off heat and let lids/rings remain in the hot water until you need them.

Peel and trim both ends off the carrots. Cut them into carrot sticks that are one inch shorter than the pint jars. Pack the carrots sticks upright in the jars and fairly tightly. Put odd lengths and bits of carrots into one jar so the rest of them are as uniform as possible. (Or, if you have large carrots, you might like them cut into diagonal round slices.)

In a large pot, mix the vinegars, sugar and salt. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Carefully pour the hot vinegar into the jars over the packed carrots, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. (You might have extra vinegar if you did a nice job packing the carrots tightly.) Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. At this point, if you aren't canning these, add lids and put your refrigerator pickles in the refrigerator. Eat within four months.

For canning: Add lids and rings and process in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes (20 for quarts). Then, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the bath for an additional 5 minutes before removing to the counter (onto a dish towel). Let sit un-disturbed for 24 hours. Check seals. If any jars failed to seal, store in the fridge. Otherwise, store in a cool, dark place for up at a year.

Pickled Carrots
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Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

Nom!

Wayne Mates
Wayne Mates
9 years ago

Unfair to be reading this before breakfast! Now, I am starved 🙂 Sounds like a terrific recipe and now has me motivated to figure out what is going in the garden this year!

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
9 years ago

PSU farmer market opened last week and surprisingly they have a lot of vegetables for sale. I guess they must have big green houses.
Carrots look good. 🙂

cerb
cerb
9 years ago

Two things are being harvested in my yard at this time of year: snow peas and citrus. When snow peas get too big or are oddly shaped, I cook them in a little bit of water till they’re almost mushy, then puree them. I freeze the puree in small portions and use it in all kinds of soups and casseroles. My neighbor is cutting down two orange trees today because of a construction project. I asked about the oranges and was told to help myself. I can’t tell you how many oranges we picked! Now I’m juicing them and will… Read more »

Spedie
Spedie
9 years ago

I started canning again last year after a long time – I hadn’t done it since I did it with my mom as an older teenager.

I am going to give this a try!

I have been thinking about planting some container vegetables this year instead of a garden. The price of some things in my area have gotten outrageous…for example, small green peppers are nearly $1 a piece.

Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple
Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple
9 years ago

Ooh, these look really good. I don’t do much canning. I did as a kid with my mom. We’ve gotten started here and there. With our jobs and kid, not a lot of gardening time either. But about 3 months ago, our tangerine tree ripened all its fruits at once. We canned a TON (okay, maybe 18 pints or so) of tangerine marmalade. I chopped all the fruits and peels by hand so I could get out the seeds, and found exactly one seed. Next time: totally using the food processor. I’m lucky to live in Cali. I could hop… Read more »

Maureen
Maureen
9 years ago

I’m sure these are well received as gifts! Thanks for sharing.

Meghan
Meghan
9 years ago

I’m going to have to try this. My spring/summer project is to learn how to can and this looks like a cheap and easy recipe to start with. I don’t know if anyone can answer this, but is there some rule that you shouldn’t use grocery store produce for canning? I read somewhere else that you should only use produce from your garden or from a farmer’s market. I live in the city and so I can’t have a garden, and I find that produce at the farmer’s market can be expensive (although I would love to support local growers,… Read more »

Shan
Shan
9 years ago

Please post your lemon curd recipe. I didn’t know it could be put in the freezer and would love to try this.

Jeannine
Jeannine
9 years ago

Thanks for writing this piece Kris. Whenever you write something like this about gardening or canning I think you are writing about a part of the richness of life that is available to us no matter where we are in our pursuits of our financial goals. The taste, pleasure and satisfaction from something we’ve grown or canned-how do you put a price tag on that?

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago

I’m in the Northeast so there isn’t much available right now (although in the Depression, people here used to can the baby dandelion and lambs-quarters which should be up soon.) Early winter is time to can meat, in a pressure canner. You can do it later in winter too if the price is right at the store.

Home-canned meat is incredibly good.

Pat S.
Pat S.
9 years ago

I’m wary of this recipe. Although I do enjoy carrots, I’ve never had them in the pickled form…

Laura in Cancun
Laura in Cancun
9 years ago

Now I know the trick to get my husband to eat veggies… put some jalapeño in there!!!

Marguerita
Marguerita
9 years ago

Interesting idea – carrots. I’ve done pickled garlic (awesome!) and dilly beans as well as dilled green tomatoes, but never even thought of carrots. This recipe goes on the “to try” list, thank you!

I satisfy my canning craving by keeping berries frozen in the freezer. I pick as much as possible when ripe, blueberry and rasberry mostly and salmonberries when I can get them, and then pull them out for making jams whenever I feel like canning.

sarah
sarah
9 years ago

I also found myself making pickled carrots this winter, for the same reasons. I felt like canning something and carrots are one of the few things they have at the winter farmer’s market here. I don’t even like carrots all that much but my husband eats them non-stop.

I didn’t even bother to process them – I made 2 pints and stuck them in the fridge.

http://hi–howareyou.blogspot.com/2011/01/winter-canning.html

Matt
Matt
9 years ago

I made a batch of blood orange marmalade not long ago, since they were on sale, and I love blood orange but they have such a short season.

PawPrint
PawPrint
9 years ago

@9 Shan:
Here’s a link to an easy lemon curd. I haven’t tried it, but it sure got rave reviews. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/lemon_curd.aspx

Cathie
Cathie
9 years ago

Tell me more about this lemon curd in the freezer. I have a lemon tree and I’m running out of ideas.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

@Kris

Scuse me, ma’am, but the mention of ***lemon curd*** without its corresponding recipe is tantalizing and most cruel.

Kindly share your formula for this extraordinary elixir.

OK, PawPrint posted a link to a recipe, but it’s untested–though it looks legitimate. However, you’re the champion jelly maker, so, kindly share!

mary w
mary w
9 years ago

Mehgan #8 – You can use grocery store veggies when canning. However, often if you have to pay retail for veggies it makes the home canned more expensive than commercial canned. For example if you pay $1 (or $2) a lb for tomatoes then home canned tomatoes would be more expensive than paying $1 for a 15 oz can at the store. But if your tomatoes are “free” from the backyard that’s a whole different thing. If you’re making something gourmet (e.g., pickled carrots) then it could be cheaper/tastier even if you have to pay for produce. When deciding what… Read more »

Kris at GRS
Kris at GRS
9 years ago

Okay, folks. I’m a lemon curd novice so I grabbed a recipe off the internet that was highly rated. This makes it in the microwave and tastes great to me. I’ve made two batches and will make a couple more this weekend. Some of the recipe reviewers said it tasted bitter; be sure to only take the yellow zest of the peel, not the bitter white underlayer. I use a microplace grater for this and choose organic lemons since the peel is included. Wash briefly in hot water to remove any wax. Lemon Curd (in the microwave) 7 ounces superfine… Read more »

Stacy
Stacy
9 years ago

Those are some good-looking jars of carrots! I buy bags of cranberries on sale around Thanksgiving. I stick them in the freezer because I’ve had my fill of canning for the year at that point. But around spring, when I get the canning bug again, I get them out and can cranberry sauce (which usually goes in my cranberry pinwheel cookies the following Christmas). Happy canning everyone!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

hurray!

cheapskate news: they have organic lemons at wal-rats right now (at least in my region). yes i said organic in the same sentence as that great agent of free market capitalism. and not ironically. so load up cheapskate lemon curders (like me!).

ps- mmm… duck eggs!

Stefanie
Stefanie
9 years ago

I love this post! Easy pickling recipes add so much to what we tend to think of as plain and basic food. My partner loves to pickle and made some gingery carrots last year that were really good. Kris, I am the volunteer coordinator for the Interstate Farmers Market in North Portland. We are looking to have guest chefs at each market (we will have 2 markets this season, Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning) that would be willing to share a recipe or 2 with our customers within a 45-60 minute period. We will provide money for the chefs to… Read more »

mike crosby
mike crosby
9 years ago

I buy the carrots in cans that have the jalapeno peppers.
I love the softness, tartness and spicyness of the carrots. Does pickling soften the carrots like the kind I buy in the can?

And can I boil the carrots and take the mixture from the can and will it speed up the process?

Funny about Money
Funny about Money
9 years ago

Yum!

My son LOVES these things and hardly ever gets them for himself, because they’re so expensive. This recipe is perfect: I’ll make them for his birthday! 🙂

Thank you.

Vonnie Oyer
Vonnie Oyer
9 years ago

I just canned a batch of black beans this week. They are great to do in the winter since they take 90 minutes in the pressurer canner. Not something you want to do on a hot summer day. I’ve also done other beans like pintos.

fetu
fetu
9 years ago

Another type of carrot pickle is the Vietnamese style pickle…..cut matchstick strips of carrots and daikon ( the big white Asian radish) and combine with rice vinegar that has a bit of salt and suger added. Wonderful

Luke
Luke
9 years ago

Kris – how long does it take in the refrigerator before the pickles are pickled – if you see what I mean? 🙂 I’ve only tried making pickles once (there’s a great recipe in the Ruhlman book ‘Charcuterie’, but mine ended up being discarded as I tried making them at room temperature during a cold Scottish winter and forgot to allow for central heating (d’oh!) I like the idea of using the refrigerator, but in some of the recipes I’ve read it suggests that this greatly slows the time before the pickles are good to go. How long do you… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

This reminds me of when I lived in Chicago going to old fashioned Italian restaurants where they bring out a plate of antipasto before you order, with all manner of pickled (delicious vegetables). It makes me want to start canning, but we would have to buy the vegetables we canned which doesn’t really save money.

Eileen
Eileen
9 years ago

I am as far from being a canner as one could be, but the pictures are so beautiful it makes me want to try it!

Kris at GRS
Kris at GRS
9 years ago

To address some questions from above: @#25 mike crosby: These pickled carrots are softer than raw carrots but still crunchy. I think you are asking if you can take the liquid from a can of store-bought pickled carrots and use that to make your own pickled carrots. I wouldn’t recommend it; the level of acidity may not be safe to preserve the carrots without the high-heat canning process they do in the factory. But you might try this recipe but first cook the carrots to a soft texture (boil them in water or steam them until they are the texture… Read more »

Ben David
Ben David
9 years ago

If you are this heavily invested in preserving, you should switch to european-style jars with reusable lids. The American-style jars are designed to create continued demand for those metal lids – and a successful PR job has most Americans suspicious of glass-top canning jars that Europeans have used safely for generations. There are 2 types – one with a wire bail that holds the top down (cheapo versions of these are often sold as cannisters). They form a light vacuum with a rubber gasket, and then you snap down the wire lock you take them out of the water. The… Read more »

Ben David
Ben David
9 years ago

… and jam doesn’t even need vacuum sealing – just a sterile “jam jar” tumbler sealed with a layer of hot wax.

ChrisM
ChrisM
9 years ago

Ben, the USDA warns against using hot wax because it might not create an airtight seal, allowing mold and bacteria into the jam.

Anything that you will be storing on a shelf at room temperature should be processed according to USDA guidelines.

The BAll Blue Book is a great reference for safely canning home foods.

Sure, water-bath and pressure canning are time-consuming, but to me, it is worth it for the peace of mind, knowing that my foods are safe for my family.

Kim
Kim
9 years ago

Just wanted to let you know I made these a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t can them, I just fridge pickled them. I liked them, but I had a couple of fresh okra that had ripened ahead of the rest and threw them in there and after a few days they were fantastic! Thanks!

cassandra
cassandra
7 years ago

LOVED these!!!

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