Perfectly Pickled Beets
I had a fantastic time this past week at a local workshop that taught participants the essentials of pickling beets. Now, I have defiantly done pickled beets in my time, but I was glad I went as I gained a new group of fellow canning friends! The workshop was hosted at a local Vermont college (Green Mountain College) by their Quality of Life committee. The committee is dedicated to enhancing and encouraging wellness, education, and a positive work environment for the staff, faculty and friends of Green Mountain College. Their theme for this fall’s events is a “harvest series” and has a lot to offer those of us who enjoy learning new skills and meeting like-minded people.
The workshop was great as we started off skinning and slicing beets. For the rest of the hour we got to
know one another and learned some interesting facts about canning and food preservation. Our conversation topics were scattered all over the place from butchering your own chickens to freezing tomatoes! At the end, each of us brought home a jar of pickled beets. Some pickled beets are more “pickly” than others. The recipe that Chef Dave had us do was more on the fall harvest or spiced side of pickling brine with lots of cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
This is similar to my grandmother’s recipe that has been passed down for generations on my father’s side of the family. For those interested in doing pickled beets of your own, my grandmother’s recipe is below. It is a pretty basic pickled beets recipe, and similar to
what we did at the workshop.
Spiced Pickled Beets
Recipe makes 10 (1 pint) jars
10 pounds of fresh beets
2 cups of white sugar
1 tablespoon of pickling salt
1 quart of cider (can use white) vinegar
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
4-6 whole cinnamon sticks
Cheesecloth or small spice bag
Cooking your beets:
Begin by washing your beets to remove any traces of garden soil. Cut off leaves and stems leaving about 1/4 inch of the stems and leaving the tap root on. You can cook your beets two ways, either by boiling them whole or oven roasting them whole. For the boiling method, place beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until fork tender, approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and then drain. For the oven roasted method, heat your oven to 350°F. Place beets on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Cook in the oven for about an hour until fork tender.
Once the beets are cooled and safe to handle, peel them using a paring knife. The skins of the cooked beets should slip right off. After you have peeled the beets, cut into chunks or slice for your jars.
In a large saucepan over medium heat add your vinegar and sugar. Place your spices in the cheesecloth or spice bag. For cheesecloth, use a double thickness and bring up the corners of the cloth and tie with a string to from a little pouch or bag around the spices. Add to the brine. Bring to a boil stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
Canning your beets:
Have your clean pint-sized jars sterilized and ready to use. You can use them right out of the package if buying new ones, or if re-using, you can boil the jars for 5-8 minutes to make sure they are clean. Prepare the two-piece lids and rings according to the box instructions.
Pack peeled and cut beets into the canning jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Using a funnel and a ladle, carefully pour your hot pickling brine into each jar, covering your beets but leaving at least a 1/4 inch headspace. If you want to remove any large air bubbles in the jar, run a thin knife around the jar to dislodge the air bubble. Wipe the jar rims with a damp cloth if any of the pickling brine dripped onto the jar. Screw on the two-piece lids being careful not to screw it on too tight. You want the lid just on tight enough to keep the lid from coming off and the brine escaping. Place your filled jars in a water bath of already boiling water. The tops of the jars should be covered with at least 1-inch of water. Boil for 25-30 minutes.
Store your jars in a cool, dark place and let sit for at least 4 weeks before opening. This is to let the flavors soak into the beets so that you have nicely spiced pickled beets! Canned pickled beets will last around 8 months.