Friday, July 13, 2012

Spicy Pickled Carrots & Fennel

When I think of vinegar, I think of hot, Belgian pomme frittes piled into an over-sized, paper cone on the shore of the English Channel.  My family and I were taking a trip by ferry to England to visit friends and we'd stopped for a snack.  At age 11, I was revolted by the idea of dousing my fries with the strong, sour vinegar rather than the traditional, American condiment of ketchup.  Unfortunately for me, there was no ketchup to be found, so I kept it simple and gobbled them down with only a dash of salt. Amazing. Hands down the best fries I've ever had.

As an adult, I can't get enough vinegar: sweet balsamic drizzled over strawberries or grapes, cider vinegar in my fall dressings and roasted tomato jam, salt and vinegar potato chips - hand cut and fresh.  I even use vinegar as my primary cleaning buddy (whose BFF is baking soda).  So you won't be surprised to hear that I love pickled foods.  Anything that takes a long bath in vinegar is worth sampling.  So when I got a good deal on carrots and fennel at the Farmer's Market, I knew what I had to do.  I filled my basket, hurried home and pulled out a canning cookbook for inspiration.  This tasty recipe is heavily adapted from one for pickled fennel.

Pickled Carrots & Fennel with Ginger
adapted from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton

3 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 T kosher salt
2 T each fennel seed, coriander seeds, whole peppercorns and whole allspice
5-6 thick slices of fresh ginger, about 1/4 in thick
1 poundish fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 poundish carrots, thinly sliced

Note: I used a mandolin to slice my fennel and carrots, but you could do it by hand.

Combine all ingredients from vinegar to seeds in a medium nonreactive pan and bring to a boil.  Add the fresh ginger, fennel and carrots.  Return to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Ladle into jars and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Enjoy these on a cheese plate, on a sandwich, on cold soba noodles, on a salad or just straight out of the jar!

P.S. Make sure you eat the ginger, too - it's delicious and good for you!