I was really curious as to what could possibly be chosen for the February Tigress Can Jam challenge. I didn’t envy Doris and Jilly having to pick something in middle of winter, in what must be one of the harder months! When carrots were announced, I was still a bit uncertain. I’m not the craziest about carrots. I wouldn’t say I dislike them, but I am pretty particular about how I eat them. I do like them raw (when they are good at least–often enough they are bitter or woody). But cooked? Perhaps as a result of too much exposure to overcooked crinkle-cut carrots that had spent far too long in the cafeteria warming tray, I can’t stand them. (Funnily enough, while I’m obviously a fan of French food, I seem to have that reversed–per Julia Child, the French would never eat raw carrots and only have them cooked!). But I don’t even like carrot cake! Oh, I’ll eat the cream cheese frosting off the top…but forget the rest of it. But this is a challenge, and about trying new things, so far be it from me to shirk what is only month two!
Andrea and I went back and forth about what we were going to make for quite some time–we discussed various carrot jams from the Ball book, she was in favor (in fact she did two!) and I said no way. On the other hand, when I settled on pickles, Andrea basically told me I could have it and that she hated pickles (to which I said, what kind of German are you anyway?). I have never had carrot pickles, and perhaps it’s only because I’m pregnant, but they didn’t sound half bad to me. Recipes for these are plentiful, but also in rather large batches. Did I really want to make 7 pints of carrot pickles? I was doubtful (and hey, while I’m pregnant, I don’t have that far to go!). I re-checked out The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, which I had looked at last summer and which I had liked quite a bit–not just for the (very) manageable quantities, but because the recipes were unique and interesting to boot. Lo and behold I found a 2 pint recipe for a very basic baby carrot pickle, and that settled it.
Initially I didn’t want to use baby carrots–they usually have less flavor than other carrots, and for some reason they always seem a bit gummy to me. I reasoned that good ingredients equal better results, and that I should stay away from those water-lathed, uniform little cylinders. However, laziness took over (combined with the fact that I had, with much help from family, hosted little E’s second birthday party just last weekend and time was running out for me to complete the challenge!)
So, I present baby carrot pickles. I haven’t tasted these guys yet, so I can’t give a complete report, but here are some photos. Carrots may not be my favorite, but they sure are great for photographing, what with the cheery orange color!
About one pound of baby carrots:
The new setup with my smaller canner. Definitely worth it!
Two pint jars with oregano, green and red bell peppers (something I truly hate, but I’m terrified of messing with a recipe), and garlic.
Packed and ready to go. I had a hard time figuring out how to accurately measure 1/2″ of headspace here–it’s not quite as simple as measuring when you have a jelly or jam or other liquid. But I think I got it right as my jars sealed nice and tight!
Close-up before the bath–while that lovely orange is still at its most vibrant.
I’m so glad I bought the smaller canner (did I already say that?) I can’t even imagine using my “medium” sized canner.
Finished carrots. A bit less orange, a bit more yellow.
Now for the “oopses”: After finishing, I realized that I had forgotten to slide my spatula down and release the air bubbles. As I mentioned, my seal formed nicely, but the “how to” books indicate that you also risk spoilage from failing to release any air pockets. So, I’m a bit nervous, though I can’t see why, if my seal formed, there should be any problem. (Yes, I’m still a bit intimidated by this whole canning process–despite having eaten my grandmother’s jam for the past 30 years with pickles here and there made by one of her/our close family friends). Another question I had during the process: when making the brine, you are supposed to bring it to a boil–how MUCH of a boil? I wasn’t sure if I let it go too long as I was envisioning something like that wildly rolling boil you have going when you process the jars. I had some strong bubbles in parts with a rather still surface in other spots. I switched to the stronger burner and got something with a bit more oomph, but I’m still wondering…I foresee more pickles over the year to come so let me know your thoughts! (Oh, and I should have stirred the brine better at the outset–I think I got a bit of sugar caramelization on the bottom of the pan, though maybe a slight color change is natural?)
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the recipe.
Pickled Baby Carrots with Oregano and Peppers (adapted from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving)
- 1T dried oregano
- 2T green bell pepper (chopped)
- 2T red bell pepper (chopped)
- 1/4t hot pepper flakes
- 2 small cloves garlic
- 1 lb peeled baby carrots
- 1 1/2c white vinegar
- 1/2c granulated sugar
- 1/3c water
- 1t pickling salt
Heat the jars and lids. Divide oregano, peppers, hot pepper, and garlic between the two jars. Fill each jar with half the carrots and and leave 1/2″ of headspace.
Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil and pour over carrots to leave a 1/2″ inch headspace, and process for 15 minutes. Leave jars in hot water for 5 minutes more and remove and let cool.