When I go to our favorite taqueria in town, I look forward to raiding the salsa bar after we pick up our al pastor tacos or carnitas burritos. Although I love the mild green tomatillo salsa, the smokey chipotle salsa, and the brightly colored salsa fresca, I go straight to the escabeche – pickled jalapenos with carrots and onion. They are so hot that one little bite of carrot needs to be chased with a big gulp of horchata, but they are so, so good. So good in fact that we decided to share the love this year by making our own version of “taqueria pickles” to give to our close family and friends for Christmas.
We turned to Alice Waters’ book The Art of Simple Food for guidance. It’s one of my mom’s favorite cookbooks and one that I often borrow because I love the simplicity of her recipes and how they highlight seasonal produce. While dining at Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse a couple years ago, I ordered a fall fruit bowl for dessert. The waitress presented me with a wooden bowl containing several sweet dates and a couple small seedless tangerines. This humble-looking dish was the perfect way to end a meal and paid tribute to the season. If you haven’t heard of her, Alice (let’s pretend the two of us are on a first name basis) is the pioneer of the “slow food movement,” which celebrates local, sustainable, fresh, and seasonal produce of the best quality. If you can’t make it out to Berkeley, California to eat at her restaurant, you should at least treat yourself to one of her cookbooks. It’s because of her that we pay attention to the little signs at our grocery store that tell us where our produce comes from.
We used Alice’s method for fresh-pickled vegetables, but added a generous amount of sliced jalapeños, as well as whole cumin seeds and coriander seeds to make them more “taqueria-style”. We also decided to can them so they’d last longer. Our taqueria doesn’t add cauliflower to theirs, but we thought it would be delicious – it was! (And since it’s in season, Alice would approve).
I also want to dedicate this post to Dustin’s grandma, who taught us the canning process. We love you and want you to know we’ll continue the annual canning tradition of making your bread & butter pickles, chile sauce, and strawberry jam! ❤
“Taqueria Pickles” (Spicy Pickled Jalapeños & Carrots)
(Adapted from Alice Waters’ recipe in her book The Art of Simple Food and the blog Simply Recipes)
jalapeños, thickly sliced
carrots, thickly sliced
red onion, sliced
cauliflower, cut into florets
apple cider vinegar
distilled white vinegar
garlic cloves (un-peeled)
garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- Wash, trim, and cut your vegetables.
- For about 3 1/2 cups pickling brine*, combine 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 3/4 cup water, 2 1/2 TBS. sugar, 1/2 a bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, pinch of dried oregano, 2 whole garlic cloves, 2 peeled and halved garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt.
- Bring brine to a boil, then add the vegetables in the order of their cooking time, beginning with the vegetable which will take the longest. Add the carrots first and cook them until they are cooked through but still a little bit crisp (simply scoop one out to test – about 20 minutes). When you think the carrots have about 10 minutes left to cook, add the jalapeños. Add the sliced onion and the cauliflower florets when you think the carrots are almost done – they will take only a few minutes.
- If you want to can the pickles – transfer the hot vegetables into mason jars, and fill the tops of the jars with brine. Screw the lids on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let them sit on the counter until you hear them “pop!” Then you’ll know they’re canned! Once opened, they’ll keep for a couple months in the refrigerator.
- For refrigerator pickles, allow the vegetables to cool completely after being removed from the brine. Once the vegetables are cool and the pickling brine has cooled to room temperature, divide the vegetables between mason jars (or to another container) and cover with brine. Refrigerated, they will keep for a week. Enjoy with your favorite Mexican dishes.
* When we made our pickling brine, we didn’t measure any of the ingredients, but we kept in mind the ratios from the original recipe. Alice calls for 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar (which, she says, you can easily sub with red wine vinegar) but we used apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar after reading other recipes for pickled jalapeños. We also didn’t use quite as much water as the recipe calls for. When it comes down to it, feel free to tweak things here and there. Taste the brine before you add the vegetables and add more sugar or vinegar or whatever you think it needs. Have fun with your food, and enjoy pickling the bounty of the season.