To feast on for lunch, Mark Messer topped slow-roasted venison with thick pieces of pickled carrot and daikon, sliced cucumbers and cilantro leaves in a crusty baguette slathered with wasabi mayonnaise. His inspiration came from a Vietnamese-style sandwich called “banh mi.” PHOTO BY MARK MESSER

Homegrown veggies’ sweetness hits the spot

One of summer’s joys is eating vegetables fresh from the garden. I fondly remember having lunch with my friends Phil and Chris at Chris’s mother’s place in the Brooksville village of Harborside. His mother is Barbara Damrosch, so fresh veggies were part of that meal. She went right out and picked carrots to eat in a salad.

Eliot Coleman, also at the table, said that to get the most nutrition out of fresh vegetables, they needed to be eaten soon after picking. That idea stuck with me, but sometimes I find a whole crop ready to harvest and can’t possibly eat it all fresh. In that situation, I do my best to preserve the produce for eating later in the year, perhaps in winter when summer is a distant memory or a promise of what’s to come.

Making the most of his abundant carrot crop, Messer recently pickled carrots, weaving ginger into the recipe, to enjoy over the winter. His recipe was adapted from one successfully used to pickle daikon radishes.

Last week, I checked my garden charts and realized that it was time to harvest carrots to make room for another planting. They were ready, and I decided to pickle the bulk of them for later consumption.

I had made ginger-pickled carrots before but wasn’t happy with the recipe or the process. That first recipe included mustard seed, which added a note that I didn’t enjoy. It also involved blanching the carrots before canning them, but this softened the carrots, and I wanted mine still crunchy from the jar. I decided to follow a recipe I had used a few weeks earlier for pickled daikon, but with fresh ginger added in the hope that it would stand up to the sweetness of the carrots and the brine.

Here’s the recipe for two pints of ginger-pickled carrots:


enough carrots for 2 pint jars

½ tsp. black peppercorns

8 to 10 matchstick-sized pieces of fresh, peeled ginger

1½ cups rice vinegar

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 Tbsp. pickling salt


First, prepare the carrots by washing and scrubbing them thoroughly. I don’t peel them, but you certainly could if you like.

Whether you cut them into sticks to fit the jars or into coins, I suggest they be no thicker than ¼ or 1/3 inch.

Fill the sterilized jars with carrots. Add half of the ginger and ¼ tsp. peppercorns to each pint jar.

Start a water bath by putting enough water to cover the jars into a canning pot or another large, deep pot, and setting it on the stove on high to bring to a boil.

While waiting for that watched pot, put the vinegar, water, sugar and pickling salt in a saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it carefully into the pint canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Put the sterilized lids and rings on those jars. They should be finger tight.

Carefully lower those jars into the boiling water bath. Process them for 10 minutes from the time the water bath has resumed boiling. If it boils too vigorously, turn the heat down gradually.

Turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Carefully remove the jars and set them on a cooling rack undisturbed till they cool. Once cool, tighten the rings and label them. They should be ready to eat in a few days, but will keep for months or longer in a cool, dark place. I keep mine in a cupboard.

Once they’re ready to eat, you can use them in a delicious Vietnamese sandwich called a “banh mi,” which I think just means “bread.”

I had my first banh mi in Honolulu when I was in graduate school, and boy, did I enjoy it. It had a crackling crust, mayonnaise, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, curried chicken, cilantro and chili peppers. Oh, it was so good!

Inspired by that experience and knowing that I had both ginger-pickled carrots and pickled daikon in the cupboard, I decided to make a delicious sandwich with some venison I had slow-roasted the night before. You could certainly use roast beef or stick with chicken.

Here’s how I made it.

First, I bought a crusty baguette that was soft inside. Some “high end” baguettes can be too firm for this purpose. For the sandwiches in the picture, I cut the baguette in half and scooped out some of the bread to prevent the sandwich from sliding apart when you eat it.

I smeared both pieces of baguette with wasabi mayo. You could use horseradish mayo, spicy mustard and mayo, or just mayo with sliced peppers on top, as is more traditional.

Then I put down a thick layer of pickled carrot and pickled daikon, draping an overlapping layer of meat on that. Thin-sliced cucumbers went on top of that, then ¼ to ½ cup of cilantro leaves. I put the other half of the baguette on top, then cut it in half.

Feel free to add more or less of something to suit your own taste. Mine was delicious, but it would have been more to my taste with extra wasabi in the mayo and more cilantro. Enjoy!

Mark Messer

Mark Messer

Mark Messer is copy editor for the Mount Desert Islander.

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