Black pepper and cumin are two things that I can never have enough of.
Pickles, on the other hand, I can usually do with a lot less of. Or, you know, none. None’s fine. Pickles live in the part of my brain labeled yuck.
I was talking to my friend Bill and mentioned my dislike for pickled things. The conversation went a bit like this after my confession:
“Do you like vinegar?”
“Do you like sugar?”
“Do you like salt?”
“Do you like vegetables?”
“Well, then you like all that stuff together. You like pickles.”
It’s sort of embarrassing to be really into food but dislike things that are wildly popular. (We’ve discussed my dislike of garlic previously, but that’s another post. And a lost cause.) Every so often I revisit my blacklist and see if anything on it can be crossed off. Oftentimes I try to overcome my dislikes by forcing myself to try them in new ways until something starts to click.
My conversation with Bill rattled around in my head for a bit and I realized that he’s probably right. I would probably like pickles, provided they were made in a way I liked, with spices I’m fond of. Skip the dill, get rid of the garlic, and maybe, to be safe, start with something that isn’t a cucumber. Baby steps. Pickle therapy.
Now, a note on spices. Do you have whole spices at home? Are they sort of fresh? I like whole spices, but I am guilty of letting them sit for longer than they should. Think about what’s in your rack right now and be honest — when was the last time you replaced stuff? Did you purchase them from somewhere that has high-turnover, or had they been sitting for months before you brought them home?
If you want to get back on the fresh spice train, and don’t think your local stores have anything worth investing in, find yourself a quality spice store that takes online orders. I have used The Spice House back in my home state of Illinois for years and am always impressed with their stuff.
It’s good to have fresh cumin, but please please please tell me you are using whole peppercorns, in a grinder. If I could only have one whole spice in my house it would absolutely be black pepper. Pre-ground pepper is sad. Fresh, whole peppercorns are amazing. Swoon-worthy. Get some.
Okay, enough yapping. On to the recipe. I was heavily influenced by this post by David Lebovitz during my carrot pickle research, so many thanks to him and his informative post.
For a 1 pint jar
1 Pound Carrots (about 5-6), peeled and chopped as described
1 1/4 Cups Water
1 Cup Vinegar (cider, white wine, etc)
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Whole Cumin Seeds
1 Tbs Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Bay Leaves (optional)
Mix together your picking spices and set aside. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
One pound of carrots is roughly equivalent to 5 or 6 large carrots. If you have a choice, pick out fewer large, thick carrots as opposed to more thin carrots. Thicker carrots will be much easier to chop up.
After your carrots are peeled, stand one up in your jar and chop it to 1 or 1 1/2 inches from the rim. Use this piece of a carrot as a template to chop all the carrots down to the correct size.
Once all your carrots are the correct size, chop each piece in half lengthwise to give a nice sturdy base (carrot above, on the left). With a large, sharp chef’s knife (bigger is easier for this task), begin slicing the carrots lengthwise into 1/8 or 1/16 inch thicknesses. You don’t have to go crazy or be a perfectionist. You want them thin enough to take to the picking liquid, but thick enough to retain crunch.
Once all the carrots are chopped, drop them into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes. You do not want to over-cook them, you just want to loosen them up a bit so they can take to the pickling easier.
Drain the carrots well, and add the remaining ingredients to the hot pan. Bring to a simmer and let cook on low for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the blanched carrots to the liquid and let sit until room temperature, or at least cool enough to handle.
With VERY clean hands, load up the pickles into your jar.
Pour the picking liquid and all the spices into the jar.
Place your jar in the fridge. They will be ready to eat in 24 hours, and should keep for a good two weeks. They are great with your favorite vegan cheese and crackers, mixed into salad, with tacos, in sushi, falafel, or on their own.
They are pretty damn good. If I like them, you probably will, too.
By the way, as an experiment, I used a tiny bit of the hot pickling liquid and poured it over freshly sliced cucumbers. That works, too, and they remain crisp. The liquid should work with just about anything you have on hand!