IMG_20180627_153036066watermarkBeets, as a vegetable, are a challenge for me. In my quest to overcome my various childhood vegetable phobias, I’ve made it a point to have a go-to recipe for each vegetable, that makes them not just tolerable, but something that I really enjoy. But earthy beets, the poster child for vegetable terroir (which translates loosely to “of the earth”)? Well, I’m still in search of that go-to recipe. I’ve roasted them. I’ve boiled or steamed them. I’ve spiraled and shredded them raw. I’ve turned them into fritters and borscht. I’m most likely to turn them into a beet salad, married with other strong flavors such as onion, garlic, orange, sharp vinegar, a spicy fruity olive oil, feta cheese and nuts.

But my favorite way to eat beets, my go-to recipe, is pickled. Not just normal picked, but with added onion, mustard and warm baking spices. I LOVE them tossed into a dinner salad, including the bright red pickled onions also in the jar.

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Cooked and ready to peel

This recipe, which I’ve been making for some 20 years, is directly out of an old edition of the Ball Blue Book. I originally got it from an old newsletter that Ball used to put out, and then realized it was the same recipe from the book. They  make a beautiful colorful gift for Christmas or any other special occasion where you want to share something made from your own kitchen, assuming you don’t eat them all yourself.

Beets are in season from late spring through summer and sometimes into fall, where they often grow to the size of a baseball or larger. I prefer to make these in the spring, when the beets are still not much larger than a golf ball.

New to canning? I’m not going to give a lot of details about how to prepare your jars, secure the lids, and boiling water bath canning in general. But it IS important, and you DO need to know it. Please check out this site before you start.

Spicy Pickled Beets

Makes 4-6 pints

  • 4 lbs beets. Red is traditional here, but any mix is fine.
  • 3 cups thinly sliced onions (you can use Walla Walla or other sweet onions here, but I prefer the flavor of the more traditional “hot” Spanish onion)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole clove
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups cider vinegar (make sure its REAL cider vinegar and not just white vinegar with color added)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
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Beets should be cooked enough that their skins slip off easily.

Wash beets well, scrubbing off any residual dirt, but being careful to not puncture skin, and trim tops and root end, leaving an inch or two attached (this helps them retain their color). Put beets in large pot of water, add a small splash of white vinegar (this also helps them retain their color) and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 to 60 minutes, until beets are cooked through and easily pierced with a knife (time is going to depend on size – 1″ beets only need about 30 minutes – extra large ones need much longer). If your beets are not all the same size, you may need to remove the smaller ones first and let the others continue to cook for a few more minutes. How well cooked is a fine line. You want them to be easy to peel, but they are going to get a lot more cooked in the canner later, so you still want some firmness to them. Once cooked, plunge into cold water, cut off tops and bottoms and peel with your fingers (skin should easily slip off – if they don’t, they probably aren’t cooked enough). Cut into halves, quarters or more, until they are all 1 to 1 1/2 inches at their thickest part. Size is important here for vinegar penetration, which is what preserves them and makes them shelf stable.

Combine remaining ingredients into a large sauce pan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes so that the spices bloom and the onions cook lightly. Add the beets and heat until back to a simmer.

canning-jar-head-space

Stolen from the interwebs, but likely © Ball as it looks identical to what’s in my book.

Remove cinnamon sticks. Fill pint jars with beet/onion/spice/brine mixture, leaving 1/4″ head space. Liquid should cover beets. Tap or swirl jar to release any trapped air bubbles. Cap, lids finger tight (remember, you want air from inside the jar to be able to escape if needed) and process in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes.

Well sealed are shelf stable for a minimum of a year.

Note: the new USDA canning rules state that if your boiling water bath processing time is longer than 10 minutes, its not necessary to sterilize your jars and lids ahead of time, before putting your hot product into the jars. I KNOW, RIGHT!? Ten minutes in the canner will automatically sterilize your jars. They should, of course, be clean when you start.

© Miles Away Farm, where we’re miles away from the perfect “I can’t wait to eat this” beet recipe that doesn’t involve pickling, but feel like we get a dose of some needed micro-nutrients every time we eat one.