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spicy pickled carrots: {UFH challenge update}

This year is roaring by at top speed; I daresay it’s the fastet-moving year of my life, and the omniscient they say that life only starts moving more quickly the older you get. Sheesh. I love that this blog gives me a chance to document all that happens around here, as these days I can’t be relied on to remember it all, and I suspect (ala the wisdom and wit of Nora Ephron) that my memory will only get worse too. While conducting my mid-year time-flying assessment, it occurred to me how long it’s been since I updated y’all on my Urban Farm Handbook challenge. Not since March?! Whoa baby.

Allow me to bring you up to speed on the latest quarter (and then some), and I’ll throw in a recipe and some reflections as well:

  • April was Gardening month. I already gave you a few garden updates; I’ll link them up here in case you missed them (updates from May and August). To sum those posts up, I dug a bit larger than a 4’x4′ plot and planted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and squash and some herbs in containers. As of this week, our tomatoes are doing well, and the zucchini/squash (and the peppers as of this week) are all dead, due to what I believe is a combination of underwatering (vacations sprinkled through the summer), fungus, and bugs. The herbs are AMAZING performers! I hope I can keep them alive through the fall and winter.
  • May was Foraging month. I unfortunately have to put this month’s challenge in the fail column and admit to giving it only a C- effort. By the time I went around grabbing dandelion greens, they were bitter. I’m not sure if it was just my yard or if I waited too long. I was disappointed at my lame attempt and will try better next year. On the plus side, we bought plenty of foraged fiddleheads and cooked them throughout the month.
  • June was Botanicals month. They challenged us to make hydrosols (like making essential oil but leaving in some of the water) and herb infusions. I didn’t have any plants with essential oils in them at home in June, but now I have lavender so look forward to making a hydrosol soon. As for herb infusions, I have made some quick batches of olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing–infused with rosemary, thyme, and oregano, not all together at once–but I haven’t done any vodka infusions yet. Have any of you done this?
  • July was Seed Saving & Winter Gardening month. I diligently read all about seed-saving in the urban farm handbook, but it requires letting a vegetable nearly rot on the plant, and I didn’t have nearly enough to spare. {sad face} Another fail is that I didn’t plant carrots because I lost the seeds and only just found them. I’m contemplating whether to plant them now. {poor me face} I might just skip new veggies and plant a cover crop for winter. I hate giving up, but I also have lots going on right now. I hate even more that I can’t yet tell you what is going on right now, but I promise to fill you in soon. {suspense is icky face}
  • August was Preserving month. Food in Jars writer Marisa challenged everyone to make their own small batch jam recipe. I ended up doing this half-accidentally before the gauntlet was laid down when I made blueberry syrup. I cooked some of it a bit longer to make an ice cream topping, and I ended up with jam! It is very delicious and was easier than I would have thought, considering it was a happy accident. We went through it faster than I could do a canning bath, but I will do one with my next batch for sure. One of my favorite real food bloggers, Wardeh of GNOWFGLINS, challenged us to ferment foods. Sauerkraut and water kefir are at the top of my list. They will have to wait another month or so.

One aspect of preserving I did choose to tackle is pickling. Pickles are essentially my desert-island-all-time-favorite food, so how could I not make pickles first? I did traditional cucumber bread & butter pickles back in July, and this month I decided to make another of our favorite pickles, spicy carrots. I got the inspiration from this article (on a finance-related website of all places) and adapted the recipe to suit my taste (less sugar, as usual) and what I had on hand.carrots
spicy pickled carrots

*N.B.: What I learned about pickling salt is that it doesn’t contain iodine. My grocery store doesn’t sell salt they call “pickling salt,” but it does sell Morton’s without iodine, which to my teensy knowledge appears to be the same thing.

2 to 2 1/2 lb. carrots (I used 2 bags of baby carrots I need to use up)
2 jalepeno peppers (1 red, 1 green are pretty)
6 whole cloves
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
2 1/2 c. white vinegar
1 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. unrefined sugar
2 1/2 Tbs. *pickling (non-iodized) salt

Gather 2 QT-sized canning jars. If you plan to keep these on the shelf, you need to do the usual sterilizing process. I made refrigerator pickles (that I plan to eat within 4 months), so that wasn’t necessary for me.

If you aren’t starting with baby carrots, you should peel, trim, and cut your carrots into sticks. Divide peppers, cloves, pepper flakes, and garlic between the two jars. Top with carrot sticks or baby carrots, packing them in tightly.

Meanwhile, mis the vinegar through salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil so the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the mixture over the carrots, being sure to leave 1/2 inch of empty space at the top. Again, pickles can be stored in the refrigerator for about four months. Voila!

Editor’s note: This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop Monday Mania Frugal Friday, Real Food WednesdayYour Green ResourcePennywise Platter, LHITS DIY Linky, Seasonal Celebration Sunday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways