Most of what you see in the grocery store that is picked are cucumbers. There is a reason why pickled cucumbers are, in the American vocabulary, simply called "pickles". Still, if you look hard enough, you can find other vegetables that have been pickled, such as cauliflower, peppers, and carrots.
There are a couple of ways of pickling things. The first is a fermented pickle, where you let natural processes and time encourage a complex flavor. The other method is the quick pickle, where you mix all your flavorings together, heat them up, and have your snack ready in just a couple of days. I went for the latter for my first pickling experience.
I made a variation on Alton Brown's Firecrackers, which are spicy, sweet carrots. It turns out that all of my dried peppers on my pepper shelf in the pantry (I am not joking about the dried pepper shelf; it is next to the jam shelf) are relatively mild. Apparently I was out of dried hot peppers. Still, no reason not to continue on.
Start with the carrots, put into jars. The original recipe called for one big jar, but I just had little jars, so little jars it was.
Take your dried pepper or peppers
and if it's too large to put into the jar on its own, cut it up and divvy
Get your spices (mustard seed, crushed red pepper, and onion powder)…
Actually, those aren't red pepper flakes. I had run out of those, too. But I had lots of dried chiles, so I just grabbed some seeds and flakes from those. Crushed red pepper is just the skin and seeds of chiles that have been, yes, crushed. And I already had the skin, so I added some seeds for a little bit of heat.
Combine the salt, sugar, water, vinegar, and spices, and heat to boil for 4 minutes.
Put your canning funnel over the jar
and pour the hot liquid in.
Loosely cover once it's cooled and let sit for 2-7 days. Ta-Dah!
These were tasty and sweet. All of the ingredients I had lying around, which is the best way when you are canning. Naturally, if you see some lovely full carrots in the grocery store or farmer's market, cut them up into sticks of whatever size you like best and preserve those instead of the lathed carrots.
Naturally, you can vary this recipe, even more than I did. Keep the amount of vinegar, salt, sugar, and water the same, and feel free to sub out the vegetables or especially the herbs and spices. There are recipes for quick pickled vegetables with just salt, but Ruhlman says to use a 3% (by weight) salt-to-water brine for your pickles, and things will be well.