13 June 2012

Transports of Delight: Spicy Pickled Carrots

Once upon a time, I needed a replacement for the word ‘elation.’ Instead of using my brain, or my husband, I used the thesaurus, and one of the listed  synonyms was ‘transports of delight.’
Transports of delight?
Has anyone heard of this before? I think it’s dumb. Also, I love it.

Lots of things give me the transports of delight. Like peppermint patties and pulled pork sandwiches, and when toddlers have dirty faces and then they cry and then their tears dry but leave those two clean streaks on both sides of their faces. I love that. And cake, too. Cake never fails to give me transports of delight. Except for red velvet cake, which gives me transports of stupid, and that gives me transports of sad, because plenty of people like red velvet cake, and that makes me think that there is something wrong with me, which gives me transports of worry.
Enough of this depressing talk. Let’s get back to what transports me to delight: these spicy pickled carrots. 

What? I’m posting about pickles? If you know me, you know that I hate pickles.  You know that if pickle juice runs into my hamburger bun, I screech. Loudly. Whoever burgers with me knows that he/she must be extremely vigilant so that he/she can pick the pickle right off my plate before the server sets it down and the picklejuicepuddle runs into my fries and I am transported to agony.

Please tolerate my abhorrence of pickles; in my defense, I do try them on a semi-annual basis to see if my taste buds have evolved.  They haven’t, sadly.
But even my stubborn palette could not prevent me from making these carrots when I saw the recipe in Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation. I knew this recipe would be different from traditional pickles. For one, the recipe calls for cider vinegar, which has a flavor with more depth than that of white vinegar.  Secondly, the mixture of pickling spices is very different from that of traditional pickles.  Thirdly, they’re carrots! Not pickles! I figured it was worth a try. If they were gross, I could always give them to someone I didn’t like. Heh heh.

But I wasn’t wrong. They weren’t gross. Thank goodness I made two pounds of them so I can get my transports of delight on whenever I please.  Oh my oh my oh my oh my.  So flavorful!  So vinegary! So spicy! And they keep getting spicier and spicier and spicier as the brine absorbs more heat from the chiles.

You really should try these.  I processed mine with a water bath canner, but don’t have transports of disappointment if you don’t own canning equipment!  Just store them in the fridge, where the vinegar will keep them tasty for at least a month.

As if these carrots weren’t delicious enough just eaten straight from the jar, they are even better when enjoyed alongside a grilled cheese sandwich.  Krissoff includes a recipe for a grilled fontina sandwich on sourdough. I followed her advice, and the pairing was divine. The creaminess of the hot cheese perfectly balanced the acidity of the carrots and made my mouth dance crazier than Robyn in a faux-fur half-shirt and leggings.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand. Even when your spicy pickled carrots are all gone, the joy they will bring you is not.  Do NOT dump the pickling brine down the drain!!! You can use it to add a tart, spicy note to vinaigrettes for salads and cole slaws.  You could add it to marinades. As for me, I am quite happy sneaking tiny, delicious, heartburn-inducing sips straight from the jar.

Spicy Carrot Pickles
~Recipe from Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff

2 lbs. carrots, trimmed and scrubbed

5 1/2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon pure kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
8 dried hot chiles, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Peel the carrots, if desired, and cut larger carrots into sticks no more than 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 4-inch lengths to fit upright in pint jars. Set aside in a bowl of ice water.

Prepare for water bath canning: Wash the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.
In a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan, combine the vinegar, 1 cup water, the salt, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until just crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids. 

Working quickly, divide the chiles, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns among the jars.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the hot carrots to the jars (do not pack them too tightly) and fill in empty spaces loosely with slivers of onion.  Ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so it’s just finger-tight.  Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Pickling spices: hot chiles, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, peppercorns.