Back in my pickier eating days, raw carrot sticks were my go-to vegetable—in fact, I think I may have taken cheese, crackers, and carrot sticks to school for lunch almost every day of my K-12 education. I still grab them on occasion when I need vitamins and crunch on the go (plane trips, for instance), but let’s face it, they’re on the bland side. I wish it hadn’t taken me about a decade to realize that the way to make myself fall in love with raw carrots again was to pickle them.
I had this recipe from Sassy Radish bookmarked for more than a year before I finally took the briny plunge. As my friend S and I were planning our annual Halloween scary-but-not-too-scary filmfest and fall feast, I realized we’d need something crisp and fresh to balance out all the delicious cheese and snacks and sweets, and what could be more appropriately festive for than bright orange carrots? These pickles were a cinch to throw together and a huge hit with me, S, A and everyone else I’ve shared them with since. The flavor is a knockout, with an absolutely perfect salty-sour-sweet-spicy ratio, and I love the texture too—not mushy from cooking, just gently bathed in the hot brine enough to barely soften them and still retain their bite. They make a snappy, refreshing accompaniment for rich winter meals like goulash, and an addictive snack all year round.
I inadvertently made this recipe even better when I realized I’d run out of dill seed, couldn’t find it at any of the grocery stores I visited (note to self: Whole Foods has it), and decided to swap in cumin seed instead, on the theory that cumin and carrots often make appearances together. The pickles turned out so fantastic that now I’m afraid to mess with a good thing, and I keep right on using cumin seed even though I’ve replenished my dill supply. Other than that, the only changes I made were to use red pepper flakes instead of a whole chile, and to pack my pickles in a flat rectangular glass container because I didn’t have any appropriately sized jars, which necessitated increasing the liquid quantities just slightly so the brine covered all the carrots. I don’t normally peel my carrots and didn’t bother the first time I made this, but I went for it the second time around and do think it helps the brine penetrate, as well as resulting in prettier pickles.
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks
1¼ cup cider vinegar
1¼ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A heaping ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seed
- Place carrots in a large jar (or I use a shallow rectangular glass container with a lid).
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 3 minutes.
- Pour pickling liquid over carrots, and let cool, uncovered.
- Seal and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.
Time: 20 minutes (plus at least 24 hours of pickling)
Leftover potential: Pretty much the whole point. Will keep in the fridge for up to a month, getting more flavorful every day.