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Ingredients for pickled asparagus

It’s asparagus season and bunches of them keep appearing in our fridge. I could eat the spears with butter three meals a day but I managed to save a bunch for pickling after a friend’s recommendation. The recipe I used is simple:

-1 bunch of asparagus
-1 or more carrots to fill jar
-4 radishes
-4 cloves garlic
-1 teaspoon coriander seeds
-1 teaspoon black peppercorns
-2 cups water mixed with 1.5 tablespoons salt
-1 wide-mouth, 1-quart mason jar

Note: you can substitute a second bunch of asparagus for the carrots and radishes, depending on space in your jar

Wash the veggies. Snap off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and see how they fit into the jar, heads down. If they stick out from the mouth of the jar, cut more off the bottom until they do. You can toss these bits into the jar or compost them. Cut each carrot lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise again. Cut each of these four carrot lengths in half. Cut the radishes into quarters. Slice the garlic cloves thinly. Add the carrots, garlic and radishes to the jar and spoon in the spices. Pour the thoroughly-mixed salt water into the jar. The water should cover the vegetables completely. If they don’t, you can either add more veggies or more salt water. I put in the carrot and the radishes because I still had space. If you prefer, start with two bunches of asparagus and forgo the root vegetables.

Here they are in the jar:
asparagus ready to pickle

To seal them from the air (which keeps them from molding and allows fermentation to occur), I used a different method than I described in my post on how to pickle anything. I took a smaller jar filled with water and placed it into the mouth of the one-quart jar like this:

Jar sealing pickles from the air

Cover the top with a towel to keep out dust and then put the jar in your cabinet. You might want to put a towel under it, too, in case the carbon dioxide released during fermentation makes some brine bubble over. After a week or two, they should be ready.

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You know how to pickle anything. Now know this: It’s hard to screw up your pickles. They are forgiving and they can take your abuse. Here’s an example from my current kimchi batch. (This isn’t a detailed kimchi recipe, but one is coming soon.)

Back in mid-January my housemates and I harvested more mustard greens, broccoli leaves, and radishes from our garden than we could stuff in the fridge, so I decided to make kimchi with some of them. I chopped them up along with some carrots, a daikon radish, and a head of cauliflower that also needed some attention. Not your usual kimchi combination, but hey, you can pickle anything.

I filled a 5 gallon crock about two-thirds full and covered the veggies with brine to soften them up for a few hours. Like this:

Kimchi veggies soaking

It looked like a lot, so I didn’t hold back on the spices:

Kimchi spices

In the food processor I blended up all the onions, most of the garlic, half the fresh ginger, and about 20 thai chili peppers. I poured off some of the brine and added the eye-watering mixture to the greens. To seal the spiced veggies from the air and keep them from getting moldy, I pressed them under the brine with a flat glass lid, then weighed the lid down with glass jars full of water.

Jars pressing kimchi under the brine

After it had spent two weeks in the pantry I tasted the kimchi. It was awful! It was way too strong, and the garlic especially was so powerful it made my mouth hurt. What to do? I added two large bunches of bok choi, another large chunk of fresh ginger, and a bunch of sweet paprika powder (because I wanted it to have a nice red color). After another week, the kimchi tasted much better and it’s still doing fine fermenting away in the pantry today, two months since it started.

kimchi fixed and ready to eat

The moral? Making pickles is kind of like making soup—you can always add something to make it better later on.

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