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Carrots are one of my kitchen staples. They keep well, taste good and can do a lot. For those nights when I need a quick side dish, I cut them on an angle, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until brown (and with all the sugars they have, they brown gorgeously).
If I need a main meal, it's carrot soup. Sauté carrots with onions and a crushed garlic clove until they're fragrant and the carrots have started to share their orange color with the onions. Cover with water and simmer until tender. Puree until smooth, add a little dairy (cream, half and half, yogurt or sour cream work best), salt, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and dinner is ready.
You've seen my marinated carrot salad. It's always a hit at potlucks or as part of an appetizer platter. It comes together in less than ten minutes and can be made hours ahead.
Carrots also make an incredible preserved pickle. These pickled carrots are based on the classic dilly bean recipe. The carrots are cut into narrow sticks, briefly blanched, then suspended in a simple vinegar pickling solution. They come out tender but with a core that retains some backbone and crispness.
After a day or two of soaking, these pickles are ready to be eaten. I tend to munch them straight from the jar. More discerning eaters could try them chopped into tuna salad or with a salad Niçoise.
Before You Get Started
These pickles can be made either as preserved pickles or refrigerator pickles. If you're planning on canning them, keep the blanching step to a quick 90 seconds. If you want to make them for the fridge, three minutes in the name of the game.
The reason for the time difference is that when you process pickles, they get an additional round of heat exposure that can lead to softening. These pickles are best when they retain some hearty texture, so you want to avoid overcooking them.
You'll see that the recipe instructs you to peel the carrots. I am not typically someone who peels her carrots, but when you pickle them, it must be done. It allows the pickling liquid more access to penetrate the carrots, leading to a tastier product. If you can't bear the waste of the skins, make plans to cook up some vegetable stock. A day or two of saving vegetable scraps and you should have enough for a generous batch.
I use dill seed instead of dill weed, as it imparts the dilly flavor but allows the liquid to remain clear (during storage, dill weed breaks down and turns murky and sludgy). If you happen to grow dill in your yard and you can put your hands on a dill head or two, those could easily be swapped in for the dill seeds.
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About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.