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Vinegar is the key ingredient for making pickles; here, it transforms blanched carrots into taco-time magic.

Former W editor Kevin West has come a long way from his first foray into pickling and preserving. His initial trial run with recreating his grandmother's (Gran's) strawberry jam involved spending a small fortune on a flat of greenmarket strawberries, then cooking them into a sticky mess. Lucky for us, West didn't give up. Now, the Master Food Preserver (he was certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension) has chronicled his obsessions and curiosities into a massive tome of 220 recipes entitled Saving the Season. His simple, spicy carrots were inspired by the many taco stands scattered across Los Angeles, where West lives. He uses the tangy, crunchy carrots as a complement for tacos, and also as an ingenious substitute for bacon in a club sandwich. Gran would be proud.

Taquería-Style Pickled Carrots

Yield: 4 pints

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

  • INGREDIENTS
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds

    2 cups white wine vinegar

    2 cups water

    2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

    2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano (or dried oregano)

    ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed

    1 small red onion, peeled and cut into ⅛-inch slices

    2 to 4 jalapeño chiles, quartered (seeded for less heat)

    2¾ pounds carrots, peeled and cut on a bias ½ inch thick 

    8 garlic cloves, peeled

    4 small dried red chiles (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large, deep pot, add 4 pint jars and their lids. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Use tongs to remove the pint jars and lids from the hot water. Turn the jars upside down onto a kitchen towel to drain.

2. While the jars sterilize, start the pickle: In a small skillet set over medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds and toast, stirring often, until the seeds are golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small plate to cool.

3. To a medium saucepan, add the vinegar, water, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the salt, the oregano and crushed peppercorns and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the onion and jalapeños and turn off the heat.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water and the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the carrots in a colander and immediately transfer them to the saucepan with the vinegar and onions. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then turn off the heat.

5. Divide the toasted cumin seeds, garlic cloves and red chiles (if using) among the 4 jars. Using a slotted spoon, divide the carrots and onions among the jars. Top with the hot vinegar, leaving ½ inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Fasten the tops onto the jars and refrigerate for up to 1 month. (For longer storage, hot-water-process the pickles: Transfer the jars back to a pot of water, making sure the lids are tightly secured and that the jars are covered by at least a few inches of water, and boil for 10 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the jars to a kitchen-towel-lined surface and cool completely at room temperature. Store in a cool, dry, dark space.)

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