These pickled carrots are delicious in winter. Actually, they’re great at any time of year, but especially during the dark days when we need kick in our cabbage, sass in our salad. What I like about having a pantry full of ingredients like this is that they quickly transform an otherwise plain dish into something special.
I made this pickle in November from just-harvested skinny carrots, so tender that I didn’t peel them. However, I bet they would be fine with winter carrots so long as they’re not the supermarket variety bagged in plastic. This pickle has a delicate brine that contains lemon peel and saffron, which might be lost on a woody or old carrot.
Besides lemon and saffron, the ingredients include star anise and mustard seeds, and a little sugar along with the typical vinegar and salt. Make sure you use the liquid as well as the carrots. It’s swell in salad dressing with light olive oil and a little lemon juice.
The recipe comes from Renee Erickson’s A Boat, A Whale, and a Walrus. This is a book of menus and stories, which happens to have some very fine recipes. The name – and the style – come from three of Erickson’s restaurants in Seattle: The Boat Street Café, the Walrus and the Carpenter, and The Whale Wins. If I ever get back to the series called Cook the Book, this is one I’d have near the top of the list. If I ever get back to Seattle, I’ll have lunch.
Pickled Carrots, adapted from A Boat, A Whale and a Walrus
Note: I size the volume of carrot and the amount of brine according to the container. Here, a used a tall 1½ pint jar, which fit carrots trimmed to a little over 5 inches long and less than ½ inch in diameter. You want them to be immersed in the brine. You can half larger carrots lengthwise, leave a small portion of the stems or snip the roots depending on the proportion of the carrots you are using.
12 oz small carrots, peeled (or not – but they won’t be as colorful)
1½ c cider vinegar
¾ c spring water (do not use tap water since chlorine interferes with pickling)
¼ c granulated white sugar
1 whole star anise
Large pinch saffron
Julienned peel of 1 small lemon (or half a medium lemon)
1½ tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp kosher or pickling salt
Trim the carrots to fit your jar. Combine all remaining ingredients in a large side saucepan that allows the carrots to lie flat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the carrots, bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender enough to bite through but still crunchy, 12-14 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the carrots sit until they reach room temperature. Pack the carrots into the jar, cover with the brine and store in the refrigerator. They last for a few months.