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It sounds strange, doesn’t it.  What does pickling brine have to do with candy?  Sugar of course!

This evening I spent my free time preparing and pickling some carrots I’d dug out of the garden (one row down, three to go).  I started with a pickling brine that was equal parts water to vinegar.  Knowing that it would end in a too-sweet pickled carrot I threw in two tablespoons of red pepper flakes.  A little overboard, but I figured as fast as these carrots would go, it wouldn’t get too hot.

Anyway, after washing, peeling, chopping, blanching and packing the carrots into their jars, I brought the brine to a boil and poured it over the carrots.

Having a few carrots together and liking the way the brine turned out I wanted to get a head start on enjoying them.  I put the leftover brine back into the pot, threw in two cloves of garlic, and left it to simmer down into a nice syrupy glaze (glazed carrots anybody).

As I started washing and drying some beets for tomorrow’s fun, I realized I’d let the syrup reduce a little too much.  It sliced up an extra tomato, plated it with the carrots and poured the reduced, concentrated brine over everything.  It hardened quickly, pooling into little flat candies on to and around the carrots and tomato.  Little red pepper flakes flashed like jewels from inside the candies.

I bit into a carrot and found my mouth set on fire with a dazzling array of flavors, from the heat of the pepper flakes, the pungency of the reduced vinegar, the sweetness of the carrot and sugars, the tiniest background of salt, which all assaulted my taste buds until they threatened to shut down.

Do any of you have any experience turning sweet pickling brine into candied vegetables?  I’m going to try this again tomorrow with some of the beets that don’t make it into the jar!

Enjoy your sweet-hot-and-sour pickled carrots.