My mom loved pickled beets. Growing up, we’d have them on salads or with grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. They seem to have gone out of fashion with the popularity of roasted beet salads, but I still love them. I made them for the first time a few months before Mom got really sick. She was down for a doctor’s appointment, and I wanted to make her something that she would enjoy and feel comforted by. I felt a lot of pride that she liked them – she’s my cooking inspiration, of course, and I always wanted her to enjoy my meals.
At any rate, they are now a staple of my repertoire. This is in part because D doesn’t care for beets, and we get them in our CSA a lot. I need a way to cook them all at once (cuz geesh, they take a long time) and then be able to enjoy slowly. And, in the shockingest shock ever, I choose to pickle them! They make a refreshing lunch, or serve them as a side-dish for a barbecue.
This batch of beets came from the grocery store, because I wanted to make them for my Alumni picnic potluck, which was on Saturday. I tried to pick the smallest beets, to avoid extra starchiness, but they aren’t as amazing now as they were in fall when they were freshest. But they were still a hit at the potluck!
Here’s the recipe, adapted from Epicurious and my mom’s recipe (this recipe is very scalable; I made 3x this amount at once):
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp pickling spice
¼ onion, halved
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
A few stems of fresh dill
3 beets (~1 lb without tops)
Trim beet tops and root. Wash beets, and boil in water until tender (between a half-hour and an hour, usually). Drain water and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, put all other ingredients in a saucepan. (I place the spices in cheesecloth, but you can also just strain it well after it’s cooked.) Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and let cool slightly.
As this is cooking, peel the cooled beets with a small knife, or if they are fresh you can just slip the skins off. Either way, you will get very pink fingers, and it may take a day for it to fully come off. So, maybe don’t do this the day before a photo shoot. Also, wear dark clothing!
Slice the beets, removing the ends if they are tough, into ¼” – ½” slices. Place in a glass bowl or jars. Put about a ½ tsp salt over the beets. I use the clamp-top jars if I plan on using them over a week, but in this case I just used a big bowl because I knew they’d all going to go to the potluck on Saturday.
Pour syrup over beets, covering them completely. At this point, I refrigerate them. However, if you’ve canned them in mason jars you can process them in a water bath for storage. If I ever grow beets and have a large harvest I will definitely do that. But for a single recipe (3 beets) I just keep them in the fridge for snacking. They take a couple days to marinate fully in the fridge.