“To Preserve food is to practise an art form by way of which one may hold still time.”
– Antony Bourdain
The lovely vibrant, red, juicy, crisp, carrots available in India (know here as Delhi carrots) are not just a gastronomical delight but also an absolute feast for the eyes. The orangish carrots that are available all year around are no match to them in taste, appearance or texture. These carrots are around only during the winter spell of three months and like most other people, I try to make the most out of them. I eagerly wait for the Delhi carrots to make their entry in the market so I can turn them into this delectable Gajar ka Halwa (Carrot Fudge). Besides, the halwa, another annual task that I eagerly look forward to and one that is religiously done each year is making this Winter Vegetable Pickle. The sweet, spicy and sour flavours of this pickle are addictive and it tastes fabulous with almost anything. For me, these two winter jobs are such that have to be done diligently and not to be missed at any cost. And how could I forget baking this easy peasy scrumptious and healthy Walnuts, Dates & Carrot Cake. Trust me; even a kid can bake this cake with ease…it is that simple. You can call it a no fail cake recipe. I haven’t had Gaajar ka Murabba since ages; perhaps when I was a kid! And had it not been for blogging, I would have most likely never made it in my kitchen. Last year, for the first time, I tried my hands at making the murabba at home but I couldn’t take any pictures of it. Some friends had come over and we polished it all off before I could grab the opportunity to click any pics. It was my Mum who always used to make this murabba in the winters and stash away some for the summers. I have taken the liberty to add a few flavours to the preserve recipe that Mum used to make, since they add a new dimension to the taste. Also, I find that the spices add a zing to the otherwise bland carrots (I do not like boiled carrots). Feel free to eliminate them if you wish to.
½ kg carrots
Enough water to boil carrots
1+1/3 C granular Sugar (add more if desired)
1 Star anise
5 whole Cardamoms (slightly crushed)
½ quill of Cinnamon
2 tbsp Lime juice
Wash the carrots and remove the edges off both the ends. Peel and chop the carrots in 2.5 inch length. Slice them in to halves if the carrot is thick. Remove the yellow center, if it is hard. Keep the sliced carrot aside.
Heat the water in a pot and once it comes to a rolling boil, add the carrots and cook for about two-three minutes. Switch off the heat, discard the water and leave the carrots in a colander.
When the carrots slices are warm, prick them with a fork. Transfer them in a broad glass container or glass baking dish. (any non-corrosive bowl will do). Sprinkle the aromatics and sugar over them. Do not stir and keep the carrots aside for at least 3-4 hours but preferably overnight. The carrots will release enough water and most of the sugar would have dissolved.
Pick the carrots from the water and do not discard the water. Heat the water and sugar mixture stirring all the while till the sugar, if any, is dissolved. Remove from heat and pass the syrup through a muslin cloth.
Transfer the syrup in a heavy bottom pan or pot and once the syrup begins to boil, add the carrots. Cook till the syrup comes to a one string consistency. To check for one string consistency, take a drop of syrup on a chilled plate (you can keep a steel plate in the refrigerator for this job) and let it cool. Now, take the syrup drop between your index finger and thumb. Bring the finger and thumb together in a quick motion. If there is one string formed when you bring them together, you have reached the desired consistency. Else, cook further and check for the same again.
Remove from the heat and once the syrup is warm, add lemon juice. This helps prevent any crystal formation. Cool completely and transfer to a sterilized container. The preserve should stay for approximately 5 months but it is so yummy that I promise you it won’t last that long.
Note: Buy slender carrots. Thick and stout carrots are likely to have hard yellow pith (the yellow inside part) which is a complete no no for this preserve.
Note: The carrots shrink by half their size post pricking and boiling so cut/ slice them accordingly to begin with.
Note: The cooking time of the carrots in water (blanching) in step one will depend on the thickness of chopped carrots.
Note: Cook/ blanch the carrots further on if you like carrots to have a soft texture before cooking them in the syrup.
Note: Do ensure that you have a one string consistency of the syrup else the preserve will not last for long.
Note: The preserve can be served as a dessert with whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
A delicious and healthy jar of preserve to give away as an edible home made gift
Also check out these winter pickle & preserve recipe…
Amla ka Murabba (Indian Gooseberry Preserve)
Gajar Shalgam Gobhi Achar (Mixed Winter Vegetable Pickle)
Khatta Meetha Nimbu Achar (Sweet & Sour Lime Pickle) – without oil
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