The carrot, so easily planted, is work to harvest. And then you have a pile of dirty carrots to deal with. Or maybe your CSA gave you an overwhelming sack. But as problems go, too many carrots shouldn't be one. Assuming you have more than you wish to put in your fridge, there are many elegant and delicious ways to put away those carrots for the long haul. Here's a list—it goes to 11of ways that people save carrots, including a few methods that I don't endorse, and I think you should know why.
Leave them in the ground
It really doesn't get easier than this, provided you're absolutely positive where you planted the carrots, as the telltale foliage that locates the roots will be long gone by winter. Before winter hits, pile on insulators like straw and blankets to keep the cold air off the carrot patch. Even in places where the ground usually freezes, like Montana, well-insulated soil around your carrots will stay soft enough for digging all winter long. And you don't want to keep them in the ground much longer, as they'll get woody when they begin growing again in spring.
Dig a hole
If you have a root cellar, store your carrots there. Otherwise, you can improvise one by digging a hole in the ground and burying a container. This year I buried a Rubbermaid tub.
I trenched around the rim, drilled holes in the bottom and will keep it covered from above with plywood and tarp, a layer of insulation, like straw or blankets, in the gap between plywood and tub.
Carrots should be trimmed but unwashed. They'll stay crisper that way. Shovel a layer of dirt on the bottom of the tub, then add about four inches of carrots. After that, alternate layers of carrots and dirt.
Store them in the sandbox
In this popular carrot storage technique, carrots are kept in a box of moist sand, and left in an unheated garage. I've never been a fan of this technique—I prefer dirt. Make sure and use clean "food grade" sand; don't just open a sandbag that was hanging around the back of your pickup for two years, like I did.
Pickled, with peppers
A shelf packed with jars full of pickled carrots and peppers is a shelf that you will gaze upon proudly, and hungrily.
You'll need some spicy, fleshy peppers, like jalapeños, along with cider vinegar, salt, sugar and mustard seeds. Heat a brine of 50/50 water and cider vinegar, adding enough sugar to take the edge off the vinegar. Add a tablespoon of mustard seeds and a teaspoon of salt to each clean, sterile quart jar. Then, pack each jar with carrots and peppers, trimmed and sliced, leaving proper headspace. When the brine reaches a simmer, pour it into the packed jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Ari LeVaux
If you have a dehydrator, dried carrots are a great option. They shrink way down, and can be reconstituted in soups, stir-fries, sauces and dips.
Peeling carrots before dehydrating will make them a bit sweeter. Another important pre-dehydration process is blanching them first, which will preserve nutrients and fix the bright orange carrot color for perpetuity. Slice the carrots, lengthwise or crosswise, into 1/4 inch pieces. Plunge into boiling water, and blanch for two minutes. Then, transfer slices to cold water for two minutes. Drain, then dehydrate until crispy, but not shriveled away. Store in airtight bags, in the freezer or a cool place.
Freezing carrot juice sounds like a great idea. But there's a consensus among juice freezers that carrot juice doesn't work. It separates, and the consistency changes. There are better things to do with your carrots.
Blanched and frozen
Blanching kills enzymes that would otherwise digest the carrots from within, even while frozen. Slice or chop carrots about 1/4 inch thick and blanch for two minutes, followed by two minutes in cold water.
Grated and frozen
If you're really into carrot cake, this is definitely your method, but freezing your carrots grated opens up other doors as well. No defrosting is necessary; simply add to whatever dish is cooking.
To prepare, grate the carrots, then blanch for two minutes in boiling water, followed by cold water. Pack in airtight containers, and freeze.
Microwaved and frozen
Carrots can be blanched in a microwave, rather than in steam or boiling water. But just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Microwave inconsistencies make it difficult to give exact directions, and makes the endeavor all the more prone to screw-up. And it's kind of weird.
Frozen carrot dish
Cooked carrot meals like carrot soup or carrot mayonnaise are already blanched, in effect, by the cooking process, and are ready for the freezer.
To make carrot mayo, add cooked carrot rounds (steamed or oven roasted) to a blender in which olive oil and garlic have whizzed around. Season with salt, pepper, and perhaps an herb like oregano or thyme—but don't get too crazy. Let it cool to room temperature, and freeze it.