Hot Mexican Carrots

One of my favorite things about taco shacks has always been those little baggies of hot carrots. I finally did a little research and started making my own — can a snack get any healthier?

I developed my own method starting from here.

  • 3 lb carrots, peeled and sliced very diagonally about 1/4″ thick
  • Liquid: 2 parts white vinegar to 1 part water
  • 1/4c sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped into strips (half rings)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced wafer thin
  • 1-2 c (1 jar?) pickled (“nacho”) jalapeno slices
  • oregano
  • (optional) red pepper flakes

Bring 2c vinegar and 1c water and 1/4c sugar to a boil, make sure sugar is dissolved. Add carrots, onion, garlic. Add liquid (2:1 vinegar:water) just to cover. Sprinkle generously with oregano, covering the surface (optionally sprinkle on red pepper flakes for extra heat). Bring back to a boil. As soon as it begins boiling, add and gently stir in the jalapenos (some juice is ok), and keep the heat on to boil for 2min30sec. Turn off the heat, cover, and let it steep until room temperature. Move to container(s) (including liquid) and refrigerate.

This gets very economical (certainly compared to 50-75c for a dozen carrot slices in a baggie) if you buy 10lb bags of carrots and 1gal jars of jalapeno slices from Costco.

So this recipe is rather subjective, as well as progressive. Start with this basic method, and save and strain the liquid for subsequent batches (when making each batch, boiling = sterilizing), topping up with additional 2:1 vinegar:water. Adjust subsequent batches depending on how you liked the previous one. Was the previous batch too sweet? Then add no new sugar, and the previous liquid will get less sweet by topping up with fresh vinegar. Too vinegary? Add a couple spoonfuls of sugar with the fresh liquid. Not hot enough? Use more jalapenos and/or red pepper flakes. Carrots too crunchy for your preference? Try boiling for 3:00. Too soft? Try backing off to 2:00. Etc.

As you reuse the liquid for more batches, it will get more green, as more jalapeno mushes into it. But it will also get more rich (not so sharply vinegary). As you go along, you can manage it by balancing previous liquid with fresh liquid.

Another tip that you might find helpful. It took me a little bit to find the best way to slice the carrots. For maximum size, you want to slice them very much on the bias, almost completely lengthwise. The best way to do this is to hold the carrot in your left hand, angled about from 1:00 to 7:00 on the cutting board, and the knife in your right hand at 12:00. This way you’ll get the right angle without having to hold your knife in an awkward, dangerous position (that is, if you are right-handed. Reverse as appropriate). Try to find a side of the carrot that you can rest stably on the cutting board so it won’t rotate or slip when you cut.

EUREKA: Blitz this stuff (carrots, onions, jalapenos, garlic, after lightly draining of liquid) in a food processor, and this makes an awesome spicy carrot relish! Try it anywhere you might use salsa, it’s especially good with melted cheese: in quesadillas, in an egg&cheese breakfast burrito, on nachos — and for a real mind-melt, try spicy carrot relish on Ruffles-nachos!

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