Pickles and preserves
I fell in love with pickling - quite by accident, actually. I wanted to find a way to make a carrot chutney, or preserve, and I perchanced upon a blog by a self-sustaining foodie freak, who had the most amazing recipe for brined carrots.
The Blog went on to explain that not all pickling is done through using a spiced vinegar - although, that, naturally, has its place. No; much of the food preservation which went on when we were twinkles in our daddies' eyes, was done by salting food, or immersing it in a pre-made brine.
This obviously, is the olde-worlde traditional method used in modern times too, but has fallen into the Artisan category, with regard to the preservation of meats, like Parma ham, or salame.
(Incidentally, I am an Italian person, 'born and bred', even though my passport insists I'm British.... And I have a ghastly vice with a virtuous conclusion. I am perhaps the worst Grammar-Nerd you could possibly ever encounter.... But I digress!)
To be honest, when I first read the recipe, I found it hard to believe that such a simple process could result in such a delicious end-product. But - prepare to be amazed - it worked. Now, nothing is safe from my pickling habits, and if it doesn't move, it's under brine in no time!
I have pickled carrots, Khol Rabi, Daikon radish, cauliflower, and even iceberg lettuce. I also pickled some new vegetables I found in an Indian delicatessen, called Tindora. I have also successfully made a Korean spiced pickle, called Kimchi (apparently actually pronounced 'Ghim-chee') and the ubiquitous and especially delicious sauerkraut - which has turned out to be a gazillion times better and more tasty than any commercially-bought jar of the stuff, you could find.
Here is the Carrot in brine recipe:
(It's best to use some salt like Maldon flaked salt, or a good quality coarse sea salt that has no anti-coagulant or iodine. Both inhibit the presence of the bacteria needed to pickle/ferment the vegetable).
Makes 1 quart.
Prep Time: 3 days to 2 weeks, depending on how tangy you like your carrots
- 2 pounds small carrots, peeled
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup kosher/sea/pickling/coarse salt
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 dried hot chilli
- 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns or Szechuan peppercorns
- 8 whole juniper berries (optional)
- Cut the carrots into discs the size you would want to eat at a cocktail party. Or leave them whole. Or split them in half lengthwise. The key here is to keep the thickest part of any piece no wider than about 1 inch.
- Toss the carrot pieces in a tablespoon of salt, and leave for about an hour, turning occasionally to keep them all coated in the briny juice which will develop....
- During this time, boil the salt, water, bay leaves, black peppercorns and chilli for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and let this cool to room temperature. This gets the flavours melding.
- Rinse the carrots under cold running water, drain well, and pat dry with a clean teacloth. If possible, fold into a teacloth, and allow to dry for a half hour or so.
- Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, pack the carrots and the thyme sprig into a clean sterile Mason jar and pour the brine over them, making sure the jars all get some of the spices.
- You will have leftover brine. Pour this into a clean container, seal and keep in the fridge, for any further use, or topping up required.
- Take a small food bag, and fit this into the top of the jar, until the base is resting on the brine. Fill the bag with some fresh cold water to completely fill the gap between the brined vegetables and the mouth of the jar. You want the carrots to be completely submerged in the brine. Alternately, fill a smaller jar that will just barely fit into the pickling jar with some water, (make sure the base is scrupulously clean) screw on the lid and use that to prevent the carrots from contact with air. If the veggies hit air while fermenting, you get mould.
- Keep the jar at normal room temperature for least 10-14 days. What’s cool? Cooler than 22 degrees. Like many things that ferment, 18 degrees is about perfect. Don’t go colder that 12 degrees. I ferment at about 20 degrees. You can leave the carrots in longer if you want — they will be saltier and tangier. I often ferment these carrots for a full 2 weeks. The fact that a fermentation process is taking place will be evident by the amount of bubbling and activity in the jar, as gasses released rise to the surface. You’ll know when fermentation is complete; when the mix stops bubbling.
Once you have noticed that all bubbling has stopped, remove the bag or small jar from your pickling jar. To store your pickles, either do as I do and simply screw the cap on the pickles and put them in the fridge, or you can pour off the brine into a clean pan and boil it. When it is cool, pour it back into the jar with the carrots and seal it up. If you want your pickles to be shelf-stable, you must boil the brine and then simmer it for 15 minutes or so, adding a little extra spring water to make up for evaporation. Subsequently, kept in the fridge, these pickles will last up to 6 months.