Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Joy of Vinegar

When you think delicious food, it's unlikely that vinegar is the first ingredient that comes to mind. And yet, vinegar is one of the cornerstones of many cuisines. Sushi often incorporates rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar can be added to tomato-based pasta sauces, is used in making all kinds of salad dressing and can be reduced into a tasty sauce in its own right, and any time I make BBQ sauce, there's bound to be some apple cider vinegar in there.

One type of food preparation that relies heavily on vinegar is one that I've always loved but never tried until recently. That, my friends, is pickling.

Pickling made easy

I recently made my first foray into pickling food and I was very pleased at the results. Now, your impression of pickling might be a little biased by watching Aunt Betty make her 'famous' Green Tomato Relish using a crazy system of Mason jars and boiling water. Lord knows I found it intimidating.

Fortunately, looking through the Lee Brothers - Simple Fresh Southern cookbook, I found several easy "fridge pickle" recipes. One of them was for Pickled Carrots with Shallots. I kind of needed to try it as soon as I saw it. Here's the recipe:

Carrot Pickled with Shallots


- 1 ½ lb. carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick on bias
- 8 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
- 6 sprigs fresh dill, cilantro or epazote (having none of these available, I used thyme instead. Fantastic flavour, but maybe different than the authors had intended)
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar (I used the latter and am glad I did. White wine vinegar can be found fairly cheaply at Italian grocers)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp celery seeds
- 2 tsp whole black peppercorns


- Combine carrots, shallots and herbs in 1 qt mason (or other) jar w. lid.
- In small saucepan, combine 1 cup water with vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds and peppercorns and heat until it simmers.
- Pour brine over veggies, cover loosely and let cool to room temperature
- Seal container and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. Pickles will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Seriously, it's just that easy to make "fridge pickles". The drawback is that they won't last you through the zombie apocalypse. What really surprised me is just how crunchy the carrots were after being pickled, not to mention super-tasty!

Carrots a-pickling!
Below is a nice way to present them as a side for whatever you might be eating that night. These would go super-well with a nice cold antipasto plate.

Pickled Carrots with Shallots and Thyme - photo by kira_generika
I also thought they might provide some interesting crunch and texture when paired with some Meatloaf par exellence on a bun (I was right): 
Not Your Average Sandwich! - Meatloaf and Pickled Carrots on Kaiser (Dijon mustard added later)

As an added bonus, I recently discovered just how much fun a drizzle of balsamic vinegar can be when paired with roasted potatoes that have been topped with blue cheese:

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Walnuts - photo by kira_generika
Basically, you just roast the potatoes as indicated on the package, crank the heat up, top with some crumbled blue cheese, walnut pieces and fresh pepper, then top with a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Trust me, you'll love it.

And there you go, just a teaser on the wonderousness of good ol' acetic acid + water.

If you have any neat applications of vinegar, I'd love to hear about them!


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