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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pickled Beets Recipe

The beet belongs to the same family as chard and spinach. However, unlike these greens, both the root and the leaves of beets are eaten. Beet leaves have a lively, bitter taste similar to that of chard. Attached to the beet's green leaves is a round or oblong root. Although typically a reddish purple hue, beets also come in varieties that feature white or golden roots. Because of their high sugar content, beets are delicious when eaten raw, but are more typically cooked or pickled. Beets are the main ingredient in borscht, a traditional eastern European soup.

Most any time of the year you'll find pint jars of pickled beets stored on my pantry shelf and frozen cooked beets in my freezer ready to compliment any meal. Pickled beets are delicious with hot dogs, hamburgs, grilled cheese sandwiches or, for that matter, any other choice of sandwich; frozen beets can be enjoyed as a side dish to any meal served. Pickled beets also make for a great item to take on either a picnic or as a dish-to-pass.

I began growing my own beets and pickling them some 20 years ago using an heirloom recipe which was shared with me by a much older friend and neighbor who also enjoyed for many years preparing this very same recipe for his family - the only difference being he purchased his beets locally from a farm stand whereas I grew my beets in my backyard garden. This year my newly-built raised bed is providing an ample amount of beet harvest to meet my needs as well as the needs of other interested recipients. (I'm pleased to say that this year I was able to barter some beets for some extra string beans.)

My choice of beets, as shown in some of my pictures, is the oblong beet. They take less time to cook and are simply simple to slice.  It is a requirement that the recipes I collect and prepare are fairly simple because if it's too complicated it's no fun and if it's no fun "get me out of here."

Picked Beets Recipe - Heirloom Style

Prepare beets (3-4 lbs dependng on size):

Wash and cook your beets:

Before cooking your beets cut off beet greens leaving 2" attached to root vegetable (to help them bleed less while cooking.) Wash the beets and place them in a large pot filled with water and boil them until they are fork tender. A pressure cooker can also be used to cook the beets - I find it to be faster and not as messy.

Cool beets to touch:

After the beets are fork tender, transfer them to a cookie tray or large bowl to cool to touch.

Peel and slice beets:

Peel and slice desired amount of beets. *

This recipe makes approximately 4 pints of pickled beets. I always triple this recipe which makes approximately 12 pints but if I add lots of onions I can get at least15-17 pints. Unfortunately when I made this batch I was out of onions. : (

Prepare utensils:

Wash the jars, lids and rings with hot soapy water.
Place the clean lids to be used in a pan of water and bring to a boil.

Marry the beets with the ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • onions (optional)

Combine all the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cooked sliced beets to the pot and continue to boil slowly for 15 - 20 minutes.

Pack the beets with enough liquid to cover them into clean hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Release any air bubbles using a non-metallic utensil.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue to ensure a good seal. Place a hot lid onto each jar rim and hand-tighten the screw band. They are now ready to process in the boiling water bath:

  • Place a rack in the bottom of a large kettle and fill it halfway with water. Heat extra water in a saucepan as a reserve. Bring to a boil over high heat and carefully lower the jars into the pot using a jar lifter or a wire rack made for this purpose. Add more boiling water from your reserve until the water level is 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Cover the kettle and bring the water to a full boil. Reduce the heat and maintain a gentle boil for the entire processing period of 30 minutes.
At the end of the processing time remove the jars from the kettle with a jar lifter or wire rack and place them on a clean towel until completely cool.

Test the seals on the cooled jars by pushing on the center of the lid. If the lid feels solid and doesn't indent, you have a successful vacuum seal

Remove the screw bands from the sealed jars, wash them in hot, soapy water and put them away for another canning adventure.

Now this is what I'm talking about and....

don't forget to wash and steam the beet greens!

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