I love going to authentic counter-order Mexican restaurants because they typically have a great salsa bar. And that salsa bar usually has pickled carrots and jalapenos. I love the spicy tang of the pickled carrots. It is such a compliment to the rich Mexican food.
So when I bought 6 pounds of organic carrots in bulk at Costco for $5, I had the idea in mind to pickle at least a pound of them. That meant going on a recipe search. I found a highly rated recipe from the Kevin is Cooking blog. His secret is to simmer the carrots in the pickling liquid to soften them up. This made sense to me for how the carrots get their signature texture in this dish.
But after trying Kevin's recipe, it wasn't simple enough for me. Just a few too many ingredients and steps. Instead, I found a cheat that works out pretty well. I grab some pickled jalapenos as a "starter" and then add a vinegar/water solution to cover the carrots. It is so simple.
My favorite pickled jalapeno to use is a can of La Costena's sliced pickled jalapenos. It's inexpensive and the perfect starter for this recipe because it already has the onions, carrots, and flavorings needed. In essence, this recipe is just changing the ratio to be way more carrots than jalapenos. It's so simple to do and so delicious. Now I might just make all 6 pounds of carrots this way!
Note, I take personal risks with my pickling protocols. I do not follow all the necessary steps to ensure total sterility. Instead, I lower my risk in other ways by keeping these pickled carrots refrigerated at all times and consuming them within 2 weeks. If I wanted to make them shelf stable or was serving them to others, I would go through the official canning steps to ensure sterility.
Also, it might be best to stay away from metal pots and utensils for this. The vinegar can eat away at the metal and leave trace amounts in your final product. I don't mind and just use metal since that's all I have in my kitchen because of my induction cooktop. I don't really notice any discoloration in the liquid or signs this is happening. But just wanted to provide the tip/warning.
- 12 oz can of La Costena sliced pickled jalapenos. You can substitute an equal amount of jarred jalapenos but the flavoring won't be exact.
- 16 oz peeled carrots diced in 1/4 inch rounds or sliced even thinner using a food processor
- 3/4 cup white vinegar. I've also used apple cider vinegar and it works great.
- 3/4 cup water
- Peel and slice carrots. I like the 1/4 inch rounds but feel free to dice your preferred way. Just note the thicker the carrot chunk, the more time to simmer them to get the right texture.
- Keep the juice from the jalapenos by draining them into a 2 quart stock pot. You'll get about 4 oz or 1/4 cup of liquid.
- Add the carrots, water, and vinegar to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium to keep a simmer and cook for 10 minutes uncovered until the texture is slightly softened but still has a crunch.
- While the carrots cook, de-seed the jalapenos to make them less spicy or keep them as is for a spicier dish.
- Remove the carrots from heat and add the jalapenos since they are already the right texture.
- Grab two clean (ideally sterile) quart size glass jars. Add the pickled carrots and jalapenos to the jars. It might be easiest to drain the liquid first into the jar. Then scoop out the carrots and jalapenos into the jar as well trying carefully not to create splashing.
- Ideally the liquid should cover the carrots. If more liquid is needed, use 50/50 solution of vinegar and water.
- Let cool on the counter by loosely covering the jars so steam can continue to escape. Then when at room temperature, add the clean (sterile) lids and screw tight.
- To make shelf stable, you'll need to prep a jar steam bath and go through the sealing process. Instead, I just keep the jars refrigerated and consume within 2 weeks.