Not very long ago, while cleaning out my refrigerator, I noticed that some damn fool had bought  a bag of carrots when clearly we already had enough carrots for our purposes. Coincidentally, I  also noticed that I had developed quite the taste for pickled carrot products, most notably that sweet carrot and diakon pickle that sometimes comes with grilled salmon I order from Republic on a Saturday at work, but also the spicy Giardiniera pickles that I had paid $9.00 for a tub of at my local farmers market during a moment of temporary insanity. In fact, I soon came to the realization that I was developing quite the expensive pickled carrot habit, and considering the embarrassment of carrots on display in my crisper, I was going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to pickle.

“TO THE INTERNET!”  I thought, as that is what I think whenever I need to obtain any knowledge on pretty much any subject (what did we do back in the olden days?) and Googled me up a handful of carrot pickling recipes. Rather than follow any of these recipes, like a sensible person might do, I decided instead to just get a general gist of various ways one might pickle a carrot and then just wing it.

Pickling carrots, it appeared, was pretty much a matter of just shoving some carrots into a jar and pouring some sort of vinegar-based solution over them. So that is pretty much what I did. I chose a solution from a recipe that claimed it was for Thai pickled carrots and daikon, but rather than rice vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar. And I left out the diakon. And I added a bunch of flavorings it didn’t call for.  But otherwise, it was totally the same.

Solution-wise, we have two cups of vinegar, into which we stir in 4 tablespoons of brown sugar and two tablespoons of salt. Actually, that sounded like an awful lot of salt to me, so I used less. I can’t remember how much less. We’ll say somewhat less. This solution was brought to a boil and then allowed to cool down. Then I quartered the baby carrots* and stuffed them into their jars. At this point I got a little creative. In the first jar, I added bayleaves and allspice berries. In the second jar I added a handful of dried chipotles. In the third jar I added a handful of star anise. Both the star anise and the chipotles had been impulse buys as I am a sucker for dried peppers and whole spices and will buy  pretty much any I see.  I am trying to collect the whole set.

So anyway, once the solution has cooled we pour it into our jars and seal them up and put them in the fridge. The pickles are pretty much ready to eat within an hour, but obviously get better as they are allowed to marinate longer, and last at least a couple of weeks. Opening them up a few hours later, the results were quite surprising and interesting.

Tastewise, none of them resembled any of the carrot pickles I had already eaten, and although I added what seemed to be a lot of sugar, none of them tasted particularly sweet. Also, a number of recipes had used a vinegar and water solution, and I think this might have been a better idea as the vinegar taste was a bit overwhelming. However, there were some pleasant surprises, as well. The bay leaf and allspice carrots were unremarkable, the spices adding little flavor to the vinegar, but the other two were something else entirely. Upon opening, it aromas hit you immediately, and the flavors permeated the vegetables and the vinegar. The chipotle carrots were smoky and extremely hot. The aniseseed carrots smelled like licorice when opened, but the carrots themselves where only subtly flavored. The vinegar itself was delicious added to salad dressing, like tarragon vinegar, only more so, and I really look forward to using both vinegars in marinades.

I think the carrots themselves will make an excellent addition to tuna salad and potato salad, and I have already enjoyed them in my green salads, but I imagine once I get through three jars of them, it will be long time before I feel the need to whip up another batch. I do, however, see a lot of flavored vinegars in my future.