Pickled Beets – Preserving the Winter Garden Bounty

2_Beets cleaned and ready for the potEvelyn, Jonathan Dye, and I have eaten many pickled beets made with this recipe. They’ve been added to cheese plates, paired with gravlax and other preserved fish, and also served simply with some dark rye bread, some fresh dill, and a dollop of crème fraiche (maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon too?). Evelyn’s winter garden has been a bountiful one. She has bushels of beets and needs a way to preserve them. Pickling is the perfect treatment for a homegrown beet. Here’s what I think Evelyn should do with her winter beet bounty!

Check out our gallery of beets moving from the soil to the jar, and then keep reading for detailed directions on canning your own pickled beets at home…

If you haven’t read our primer on home canning, please do so before executing this recipe. Preserving food through canning is a fairly simple affair but it does have its perils. You should be absolutely fine if you follow the guidelines presented in our primer.

Ingredients

  • 7 lb of beets – boiled, peeled and cut into small pieces

For the Brine

  • 4 cups apple-cider vinegar (must be 5 percent)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons canning or pickling salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

To Add to Jars

  • 1 white onion – thinly sliced
  • 8 tsp mustard seed (optional)
  • 4 tsp black-pepper corns
  • 8 bay leaves

Equipment For Canning

  • 8 1-pint mason jars
  • New lids for jars
  • Metal rings
  • Canning kettle filled with boiling water (a great all in one canning kit that we use is available here.)
  • Saucepan filled with simmering water

Directions

Before you begin preparing the beets you should fill and heat the water in your canning kettle. My kettle takes ages to come to the boil. You do not need a canning kettle if you don’t plan on processing your beets to make them shelf stable. Unprocessed pickles like these should be stored in the fridge and discarded after a month.

To Prepare the Beets

Fill with water a large stockpot that will easily accommodate all of your beets. Place it over a high flame until boiling.

Trim greens from beets and reserve for another use (may we suggest a frittata?)

Scrub beets under cold running water with a stiff brush.

Add to pot of boiling water and cover pot until the water returns to the boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until beets are just starting to become tender.

Strain beets and allow them to cool until you can comfortably handle them with bare hands.

Use your hands to peel the skins from the beets. The skins should simply slip away leaving a clean, vibrantly coloured root.

Cut beets into shapes that you find appealing. I tend towards a wedge shape myself. Their longest dimension should be no greater than ¾ of an inch.

To Prepare the Jars

Make sure that you are using extremely clean jars and brand new lids. This recipe involves processing the beets for 12 minutes in the canning kettle so you do not need to sterilize your jars prior to filling them. Of course, you may sterilize your jars if you feel more comfortable. If all of this jar-talk has you confused, perhaps you should read our primer on canning.

Fill each jar with 3 – 4 slices of white onion, 1 tsp of mustard seed, ½ tsp peppercorns (a few), and a bay leaf.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer so that you may warm your canning lids when you’re ready to fill your jars.

To Prepare the Brine

Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and water in a large pot and place the pot over a high flame.

Bring the brine to a gentle boil. Your brine should be at boiling temperature (a tidy 100oC at sea-level for those enlightened folks out there) when you pour it into your jars.

To Pack and Process Your Jars

Place your new canning lids into the saucepan of simmering water to warm their seals.

Fill each prepared jar (did you remember your spices?!) with beets to ¾” below the rim.

Pour hot brine over the beets to a level of ½” below the rim – you need ½” of headspace.

Clean the rim of jars with a clean kitchen towel.

Place a lid and metal ring on each jar.

****If you do not wish to make your jars shelf-stable you can now put them in the fridge. They will be ready to eat in 5 – 7 days and will keep for around a month.

Process jars in the canning kettle for 15 minutes. Remember to wait until the water in the kettle RETURNS TO THE BOIL before you start the timer! Have you read our primer on canning?

Allow jars to cool. If any jars did not seal, immediately place them in the fridge and eat them soon – after 5 days but not longer than a month or so.

Don’t forget to label and date your jars and to take notes on how you liked this recipe. Canning differs from other types of cooking because you have to wait to taste the results. Notes on recipes are extremely important if you want your canning skills to progress.

Beets will be ready to eat in 5 – 7 days but are probably best after two weeks or so. They will keep safely for up to one year. Once your beets are ready, there are a number of ways to enjoy them: as an add in for pasta and potato salads, with deviled eggs, on a cheese plate, as a salad condiment, on a crostini with goat cheese or even straight out of the jar!

Good luck and remember to keep it clean! Happy Canning!

-Jonathan Duffy Davis

Note from Evelyn: I am constantly inspired by the culinary exploits of both Jonathan Davis and Jonathan Dye. While I do not have the natural talent that they do, I benefit from their kind tutelage. As Jonathan Davis mentioned, we all love beets and this year I grew my own and used the above recipe and directions to pickle and can the results. It was my first attempt at food preservation and I am happy to report that it was successful! If you have never canned or jarred before, consider this: if I can do it, you can too! If it is your first attempt, I’d suggest giving yourself plenty of time, having a predetermined use for the green, laying out your materials in advance for easy access and possibly recruiting a canning buddy to help you keep track of the steps and the prep. I gave my (delicious) pickled beet away to friends and family, kept some for myself, and plan to make another batch soon! Grown in the backyard, canned in the kitchen, eaten at the dinner table. Doesn’t get more local than that!

 

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