Word on the street is that canning/preserving/fermenting your own food is the new hipster hot. Extra points if you have access to a basement for traditional canned food storage. Well, I'm a bit to lazy for that, and I am not currently a person of large means, so I only make fridge pickles. Conveniently enough, fridge pickles are the perfect combination of home-made and near-instant-gratification, with the added bonus of a significantly lower risk of harboring botulism.
So, what exactly are fridge pickles? Don't be fooled, the name is self explanatory. Otherwise known as "quick pickles" these are pseudo-preserved, often tangily spiced vegetables marinated/ceviche-fied in a vinegar-based solution. Today we will be discussing the finer points of quick-pickling carrots and beets.
(Fridge) Pickled Carrots
Pickled carrots are more or less like the carrots available at the salsa bar in SoCal mexican food shops, though the jalapeno and onion are optional, and you can get fancy if you like.
Start by chopping up your carrots. I went with carrot sticks, but shape doesn't matter; slices work just as well. Note: thinner slices generally means quicker pickles. I added a shaving of onion on top, just to be fancy and to remind myself of El Zarape. If you want to continue with the fanciness, you can add a spice mix. I used one loosely based on a Mark Bittman recipe. By 'loosely based on' I mean 'inspired by' as the similarities are scarce (my spice cabinet is limited, especially when it comes to whole (i.e. not pre-ground) spices).
Then you just fill your pickle-vessels with a freshly simmered solution of slightly more than one part vinegar, one part water and a dash of salt, let cool and then leave in the fridge to pickle around for a couple of days.
Some comments about this version of pickled carrots. I put about a third of the spice mix in each jar, and this was a good amount, but the spice mix itself can use some tweaking and a bit less heat. Don't get me wrong, these guys were perfectly yummy, just not a homerun. Next time I think I'll make a special spice shopping run and follow the Bittman recipe for real.
4+ carrots, cut into approximately equal sections and then quartered (peeling optional)
1/2c white vinegar
splash apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/3 tsp whole black pepper
1/4 tsp pepper flakes
I LOVE pickled beets! My Grandma Ella makes the best pickled beets! I haven't yet managed to attain equivalent pickle greatness, but these are spectacularly awesome nonetheless.
These require a bit more fore-thought and prep work than carrots, though they're well worth it.
Start by wrapping your beets (I had 3, but work with whatever you've got) in foil and baking the skins off of 'em. This can be done in about 45 min at 350 F. You can check to make sure by poking them with a fork -- they should give pretty easily. Pro tip : put them on a little blanket of foil, as they will drip their juices all over you oven.
Once these guys are done and have cooled, peel them with a fork and table knife. Though they're slippery, the skin should slip right off. Slice, dice, mold as you see fit the peeled beet and put in your pickling vessel (glass is best).
I decided to dice my beets this time, so that they'll be salad-ready, but this works just as well with quartered beets (though this might take more fridge time to get the vinegar all the way in to the middle of the beet).
Make a 3 parts vinegar, 2 parts water solution and simmer it in a saucepan with a generous dash of salt and about a tsp of sugar. When things have dissolved but haven't begun to boil yet, take the solution off of the heat and pour over beets. Let cool and then refrigerate for a few days.
3 large beets
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fridge pickles are great in salads, sandwiches and as a snack. More power to you if you take it to the next level and bread + fry your pickles.
*first image courtesy of Google Images