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Zesty Pickled Carrots, Tex-Mex Style

Carrot Pile

This time of year, a young man’s fancy turns to the important stuff. Like love. And pickles…

One pickle that I enjoy is one that you sometimes find in Tex-Mex restaurants: zesty pickled carrots. Oh, it’s not just carrots, but that’s the main ingredient. There are hot chiles in there, of course, and some slivered onions. Pickled jalapeños; things like that.

And they’re oh-so-tasty! Addictive.

However, in the current economy, they’re getting scarce. Many places that once offered these tasty, orange morsels have cut them back. They’re not a snap to make in bulk, and with restaurant managers and executive chefs counting pennies (just like you do), they’ve decided to leave out the carrots. Just for now, I hope. For those of you following along at home, these tasty morsels aren’t tough to make in small batches, though!

So go ahead and make your own! That’s what I did. Here’s the materials list I used:

  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil
  • 8 dried chiles de arbol
  • 1/2 tablespoon each of  cumin, black pepper, salt, and Mexican oregano
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 3 large green jalapeños
  • 2 large red jalapeños
  • 2 yellow Caribe chiles
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 pounds carrots, waffle-cut at angle
  • 1 large yellow onion, slivered

There are many recipes out there with lists rather like this one. I cut back a bit on the chiles de arbol, which are quite hot. I don’t mind zest, but I don’t need to stick a flamethrower in my mouth and light it off, either. I put fresh jalapeños because they’re so available this time of year; I also enjoy the flavor a bit more than canned, pickled ones, even though my chiles will be “pickled” once they’ve spent a little time in the solution.

Tex-Mex Carrots

Here’s how I proceeded: I got out my pepper jelly pot and put the liquids in, then the chiles de arbol. I brought the mix to a boil, stirred, then turned down to a simmer for five minutes or so. Next in were the chiles, garlic and spice blend, including the bay leaves. I cooked that at simmer for another few minutes. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped the carrots. With a handy waffle-cutter, this went quickly. Ditto for slicing the onion. I tossed the veggies together in a large mixing bowl, then dumped them into the pickling liquid.

The kitchen smelled like my favorite Mexican restaurant!

I turned up the heat to bring the carrots to a boil, then back down to simmer for five minutes. Most recipes say 10-15 minutes about here, but I planned to can a couple quarts of these carrots, and that adds cooking time. I had the big canning pot filled and boiling, and hot jars at the ready. Using a slotted spoon I filled two quart jars with veggies, packed tight; I used a tablespoon to press the carrots down. Then I ladled in enough liquid to to cover, leaving a proper headspace for canning. On with the flats and rings, then into the canning pot. I processed for about 10 minutes, then removed and cooled them out.

Meanwhile, I had some leftover veggies in the big pot. I put those into a spring-top jar, about pint-sized, and after that cooled I put them into the fridge. These “fresh” pickles should last a month under refrigeration; although I suspect the next time I make nachos they’re goners.

It’s a shame this isn’t a “scratch & sniff” website; I can’t share the lovely aromas with you! However, if you make your own, you’ll get the perfume for free…

Enjoy the (Zesty Tex-Mex Pickles) Heat!

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