Carrots + Jalapeños, Escabeche

I used to love being the first in my family to open up a can of pickled jalapeños. My mother would buy LA COSTEÑA brand and in it would be packed with whole jalapeños, carrot slices and onions. My favorite part were the carrots but there were only about five coins of carrots in there and they tended to be a little on the soft side. Nonetheless, the flavor was absolute, spicy and salty...perfect with eggs, tamales, tacos...

Now, let's fast forward to my 20s. I still loved canned pickled jalapeños but I knew that they were loaded with poor quality salt, vinegar and preservatives. In other words, they weren't offering my body any why eat them? 

It wasn't until I started to ferment my own sauerkraut when it suddenly occurred to me that I can pickle/ferment/culture any vegetable or food that I wanted. Making homemade ferments and cultured food are like science experiments, so at this point, what couldn't I make?! All I had to do was look it up and tweak it to my liking. And to me that meant, adding lots of carrot coins and jicama slices. 

So, here it is... ESCABECHE...or pickled Mexican carrots and jalapeños. 

What you'll need: 

1.  Make a brine by dissolving 1.6 oz of kosher or pickling salt in 1 quart of filtered water.

2.  Prepare enough jalapenos, carrot, jicama and onions to fill a clean 1 quart glass jar with a lid about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Wash the vegetables.  Slice the onions.  Peel and slice the carrots. Peel and slice the jicama into rectangular chunks. And slice, halve, or leave whole the jalapeños, you're choice.

3.  Put the veggies in the jar.  Cover completely with the brine.  Weigh down the veggies so they stay completely submerged.  You can do this with a small plastic bag filled with water or a small glass jar that fits inside your larger jar, also filled with water or a cement weight used for fermenting.

4.  Close the jar and set it on the counter for 2 weeks.  Then remove the weight and store the escabeche in the fridge.

A few fermentation tips:
Use non-reactive equipment in good condition.  Scratched and damaged equipment may harbor undesirable bacteria that could spoil your fermentation.  Glass, stoneware, and stainless steel are all good choices.  Copper, brass, and iron react with acids or salts and cause off flavors.

Don't use iodized table salt, as iodine is an anti-microbial and will likely inhibit your fermentation.

Use fresh produce.  Older veggies have tougher skins which may resist fermentation; and spoiled produce already contains undesirable bacteria that may ruin your fermentation.

Feel free to add whole spices such as peppercorns, bay leaves, or oregano for additional flavor, but avoid ground spices as they may make the brine cloudy or result in strange color changes. I highly encourage you to use these spices, as they are what makes the escabeche taste like they are fresh from a Mexican restaurant or taco truck.

Some lacto-fermentation recipes call for the addition of a teaspoon or two of whey, which you can get by draining off of yogurt.  This is fine, but not necessary.  Your veggies will ferment with or without whey. The juice from a live-culture sauerkraut will work just as well as whey, if you want to kick-start your fermentation.

Happy experimenting!

Recipe from Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles