Carrots are difficult for a few reasons, the most obvious of which is that carrots are a low acid food, which means that they cannot be canned without the addition of some kind of acid. You can pressure can them with a pressure canner, but that defeats the purpose of the can jam challenge. So, I read through the pickling section of Well Preserved and did some googling and figured out my recipe. See, I really loved the brine from this pickled kohlrabi & carrots recipe, which I made several times over the summer and used to pickle just carrots with delicious results. However, that's a refrigerator pickle recipe - the acid balance isn't right for water bath canning and long term preservation. But, what I enjoyed about the recipe is the spicing of the brine and it's easy enough to adjust the spices, so I took the National Center for Home Food Preservation recipe and adapted it.
The ingredients! Carrots, sugar, white vinegar, water, kosher salt, bay leaves, garlic, red pepper flakes, mustard seed and dill.
Peel your carrots. Duh.
Cut the carrots into spears.
I figured out how much I needed to cut by stuffing a pint jar full of carrot sticks 3 times. I had a bunch of non-standard spear sizes a little earlier and did one of rounds too.
I used standard size pint jars instead of wide mouth pint jars, because I thought I didn't have enough lids to process the jars. I realized after everything was canned, that I had an entire box of 12 jars. That would have been so much easier to stuff all the spears in. D'oh.
Next, combine 5 1/2 cups of white vinegar (make sure it's 5% acidity) with 1 cup of water.
I use SmartWater because it's an easy to find distilled water. You want to use distilled water rather than spring, tap or even filtered tap because you still have residue in it. Add 2 cups of sugar (I use raw sugar) and 2 teaspoons of canning salt. Do not use table salt or sea salt - the sea salt may have varying levels of salinity and table salt has additives that will make your pickle brine cloudy. You can use kosher salt (I did), but you should use heaping teaspoons instead of level teaspoons since kosher salt has larger flakes. Bring this vinegar mixture to a boil and have it simmer for 3 minutes.
Simmer your carrots in the vinegar mixture until halfway cooked - I simmered 10 minutes according to recipe and found that they were not crisp, unfortunately. All of the joy for me for carrot pickles is the crunchiness. I may lose that in this batch. Bah.
While your carrots are simmering, prep your pickling spices, simmer your jars and lids. The pickling spices will be added to the bottom of each jar. I used 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, a half teaspon of dill and a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes for each. Also pictured is a bay leaf and 2 sliced garlic cloves.
Scald the jars and then add the pickling spices to the bottom of the jars. Add the spears to the jars, 1 bay leaf and 2 sliced cloves of garlic. I had to dunk the spears in cold water so I could actually touch them and add them to the jars. Add the brine on top, leaving 1/2" of headspace. Wipe the rims, put lids on, screw on and put into the boiling water bath.
Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and wait for the little 'ping!' of the canned lids.
Remember how I told you to add the bay leaves and garlic after you've added the carrot spears? Yeah, I didn't and now they're stuck at the bottom of the jars. Once they're cool tomorrow, I will probably give them a big shake to redistribute the spices and garlic.
I had a ton of brine leftover, so I made a can of refrigerator pickles. After that, I still have another pint of vinegar/sugar/salt/water left. Not sure if I want to use it or not.
So, the downside of pickling is that you don't get instant gratification. You should really leave your veggies to cure for 3-5 days before giving it a shot. Even my refrigerator pickles should wait a day or two. So I don't have a verdict for you for how these'll taste. They may end up too spicy or overseasoned or too mushy. I'll keep you updated.
But wait! Now there's the Verdict: I cracked open one of my jars today (2/17/10) because I'd overpacked it so it was very full and some of the brine had been lost during processing so it didn't cover the carrots. I didn't think that was safe in the long run, plus I was dying to try it! It's... hm. It's very strong. The vinegar flavor is VERY strong, nearly overpowering. The carrots, while not completely mushy, it's not deliciously crisp the way we usually like our pickles. Next time, I'd just parboil for 3 minutes instead of 10 to give it more of a crunch. It's also quite dilly, a bit more than I enjoy, but stentoriansista likes it. For just straight snacking, I'm not sure I would use this, but it'll make a delightful tang to cooking or burgers or for making relish. I think this'll make some wonderful refrigerator pickles when I can dilute the brine, too!
Pickled Carrots Recipe:
4 pounds carrots
5.5 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup distilled water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons canning salt
4 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 cloves garlic, sliced
4 bay leaves
Peel and slice carrots into spears. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt into a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add carrots and simmer for 10 minutes. Scald 4 pint jars and add 1 tsp mustard seed, 1/2 tsp dill and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes to the bottom of each jar. Add carrots, 2 cloves of sliced garlic and 1 bay leaf to each jar. Add brine, leaving 1/2" of headspace. Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.