Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pickled beets or beet pickle?

No matter what you call them, they're good! Easy to make and, after I saw the price on a pint jar of "pickled beet balls" ($4.09!), I'm looking at my quarts as tho they were gold. Even better, if you grow your own beets, when you thin them you get to eat the tiny beets along with their tops (beet greens).

So far I've put up 34 quarts of pickled beets since last Thursday. That represents half of our beet crop this year. Between the beets and 25 gallons of sweet cherries my sister picked this weekend, we've been busy. One good thing, both beets and cherries will stain your hands so it's kind of nice to get them done all at once. Of course, you can always wear lightweight plastic gloves but I say (almost) black fingernails can be a fashion statement in some circles and a badge of honor in others so don't worry about it.

Prior to this year I never gave much thought to beet pickles other than noting whether we needed to "do beets" but I've had at least 3 people ask me for a recipe in the last couple of days. So I'm including the recipe I use at the end of this post.

And don't worry if you didn't plant beets this year. For one thing, you could always put in a few rows as a late summer, early fall crop or just buy plain canned beets and save a step in the recipe below. If you only make a small batch, you can skip the hot water bath and store them in the fridge. Some people like to include onions in the jars along with the beets or add peeled hard-boiled eggs to the jar after opening. For me I'm just thinking about how good pickled beets are served alongside potato salad or with green beans and potatoes, say.

The only low note is DS, a cucumber pickle aficionado, just doesn't care for them. I did learn that he loves plain cooked beets, tho, as he kept asking for slices when I was filling the jars. So I'm not giving up hope and there's always Harvard beets or roasted beets or red flannel hash for any beets that don't get pickled this year.

Pickled Beets

4 quarts beets, sliced (*see Note below)
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups water
2 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
Pack beets in sterilized jars. Combine other ingredients in saucepan, and heat to boiling. Boil 5 minutes. Pour hot liquid over beets in jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Tighten lids and process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

You can double or treble this recipe as needed. I usually prepare all my beets and get them into jars. Then cover the jars with a towel while I prepare the pickling liquid. I simply mix and cook more liquid as needed to fill prepared jars.

Prepare beets for canning by cutting off beet tops, leaving about 1-inch attached. This will stop the beets from bleeding so badly while cooking. Cook washed whole beets in boiling water to cover for 20-25 minutes or until you can rub the peeling off with your hands under cold water. Cool beets quickly by putting them into a dishpan of cold water. Use a knife to cut off tops and rub skin off with your hands. Can use a knife to scrap any stubborn bits off as needed.

If you've never canned using the water bath method, please refer to the latest Ball Blue Book of Preserving or the USDA-funded website, National Center for Home Food Preserving, for detailed directions.

Check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammysrecipes.com for lots more how-to information.

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