I apparently have a talent for pickling things. Yes, my friends say things behind my back like "damn, she makes a good brine"...and now I am about to blow my cover. Because as effortless as it is to get yourself into a pickle, it's that much easier to make some.
So I say make your own (damn) "house" pickles. It takes nothing more than some good quality sturdy produce, vinegar, sugar and spices. Imagine what you could come up with? Add some chilies here, some mustard or cumin seeds there, maybe even beer...it's that easy. My brine recipe is pretty much the proportion blueprint for you to work from. Use any vinegar but balsamic and you are good to go. And think beyond the cucumber to cauliflower, radishes, cherry tomatoes and the like.
I worked with coconut vinegar for this recipe but I can't say it much matters. The flavor had a slight nuance of coconut but apple cider would have done the trick as well. I also couldn't resist a little fennel on fennel action via the star anise. It's not over the top, I promise.
As for presentation, I would have preferred to use an appropriately sized cute weck jar but I gave so many jars of yummy things away for the holidays that I have yet to replenish my supplies. Needless to say, if you are just refrigerating your pickles, it doesn't make a difference.
I love to serve these (and any pickled things) with cheese, bread, hummus, grilled meats, fish, etc etc. Try a sliver of the pickled fennel with a slice of raw aged manchego on some toasted bread. You'll be charmed, I'm sure.
pickled carrots and fennel
4 medium carrots, peeled
smallish fennel bulb, trimmed
1 c coconut vinegar
4 T sugar
1 t sea salt
1 long pepper
3-4 pieces of star anise
1 t coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
Cut the carrots and fennel into even, uniform pieces as shown.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots and fennel, return to a boil.