Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Ladies’ Preservation Society Pickles Beets!

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

I have made pickled beets many times but never canned them to store. I’ve always just made refrigerator pickled beets. The recipes aren’t different, much, but whenever you can something it’s best to go with a real recipe from a trusted source, so that you know the acids and sugars are in balance and will properly preserve your food. My other recipe is sort of made up, which is just fine if you are refrigerating and eating within a few weeks.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

For the Ladies’ Preservation Society in January, we pickled beets. I didn’t write about it sooner because we had to wait 3 weeks for them to be ready. Then, you know, I got a case of the lazies and haven’t been writing much this winter.

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

But boy oh boy, eating beets and cottage cheese for lunch is one of my favorite things. It’s nostalgic and really wonderful. Do you ever eat cottage cheese this way? I know people seem to fall on one side or the other, eating cottage cheese with sweet foods (like canned peaches – which I made but forgot to blog about!) or savory, like with salt and pepper. Eating it with pickled beets is the perfect marriage of the two sides. That’s me; unable to choose a side so I tiptoe down the middle. Yup!

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

We got the recipe from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (another Christmas present!) and I really like it. I don’t know if it’s as great as my mom’s recipe, but what could ever be? Next time I make them I might reduce the allspice or cloves slightly to let the beet flavor shine.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also - check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also – check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

Here’s the recipe: (Makes 7 pints)

7 lbs beets, cleaned (ok to leave on roots and a little of the stem, you’ll cut those off later.)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 quart cider vinegar
2 cups water

Sliced beets.

Sliced beets.

Cover beets with boiling water, in a large pot. Cover and return to a boil, then boil for 15 to 35 minutes, until they are just tender – this will depend on the size of the beets. They will be processed for 30 minutes later, so you don’t want them soft at this stage. Drain and then cover with cold water, to stop them cooking.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we didn't need it.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we were fine without it for this step.

When the beets are cool, remove their skins. This can be done by rubbing with a paper towel, or a vegetable peeler, or a knife. Some beets will peel easily, some won’t.

Slice all the beets ¼” thick.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie the spices into a cheesecloth bag. Put this into a pot with both sugars, salt, vinegar, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. (The smell of boiling vinegar is very harsh! I recommend leaving the room while it boils, or opening windows and doors.)

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

As the liquid is simmering, pack the beets into sterilized pint jars. When the liquid is done cooking, pour over the beets, leaving ½” headspace from the top of the jar. Run a chopstick around the inside of the jar, to remove air bubbles. Add more liquid if needed. Wipe rims, put on lids, and process the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

After processing for 30 minutes, let cool. Label, and store. They need to sit at least 3 weeks before they are ready to be eating. The waiting is the hardest part, as they say. I like to label the lids with the “open on” date so I can remember.

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!