Recipe Box

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Beets

Yum. Beets.

If you’ve known me for over fifteen minutes, you know I have earthmomma tendencies and like to grow or forage as much of my own food as possible, and love crazy bouts of Kitchen Therapy. At this time of year, I’m totally into my baby beets!  I have no disdain for biggie beets, but I do like growing the smaller ones.  I love them boiled and served with butter, salt and pepper, but I know most people are more familiar with beets as a pickled product. I love them pickled too, and here’s my favorite recipe. It is not for wimps. This recipe brings beets to a stage of singing and dancing Rockette-style across your kitchen counter, so brace for a dose of vegetable attitude.

8 medium or 10 petite fresh beets, scrubbed clean, but with the skin intact. Leave the roots and tops on so the bleedy insides don’t, well, bleed too much.

2 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Put your beets in a large pot and add enough cold water to really submerge them. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to maintain a slow boil. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Pour water off and let beets cool. Cut off the top and root, and slip the skins off.  I slice the beets into thin-ish rounds,. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE PEOPLE. You can slice them however you like. Or cut them in chunks. The beet does not care. The Beet Abides.

Place the sugar, cider vinegar, water, salt, and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour this pickling liquid into a large glass jar (1.5 liter or 1/2 gallon), add the sliced beets, cover with a lid and refrigerate. Let the beets sit at least a week before tasting.

Yield =  approximately 3 quarts

If you like pickled hard-boiled eggs, save the pickling liquid after you eat the beets. Hard boil some eggs, peel them (peeling them may seem obvious, but I have an amusing memory of a high school friend who made pickled eggs and didn’t remove the shells. They were pretty. They were horrible.) Add the peeled eggs to the liquid. Use them soon, within a week, or you will be eating rubber eggs. Food should never be bouncy unless it is Jell-O. You can continue adding beets or eggs to the juice for a few more rounds. It’ll hold up.

If you want to can your beets, pack them into pint jars, pour on the pickling liquid leaving 1/2″ headspace, use a plastic knife to poke around in the jar to remove bubbles, and process 35 minutes in a hot water bath. 

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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