Pickled Beets

I love beets. I know I am in the minority, at least in my family, but I love beets. Roasted, boiled and sliced, pickled or canned – beets are one of my favorites. I spend all summer eating them, fresh from the produce farm. I usually forget about them in the winter, though I find that canned beets from the store are pretty good too.

I have tried growing beets several times in the garden. They usually do pretty well. Until the rabbits eat the tops. One year, early in our gardening adventures, I had a beautiful crop of beets. I took the whole harvest, which was about 15 beets (did I mention I have a very small garden) to my parents’ to share, since they appreciate beets, unlike Rich and Calvin. We boiled them and ate them plain because they were so sweet and tasty all on their own. I don’t think we even added salt – they were that good. And I have never had beets that good since. But I have had close seconds, just not from my own garden plot.

My favorite way to have beets is pickled, which to me means just sugar and vinegar. A lot of people, including my parents sometimes, like to add pickling spices, but I prefer mine without. Just that simple sweet tartness, combined with the earthiness of the beets is perfect. And not many vegetables can wake up a plate with such a vivid color.

When you are buying fresh beets, look for smallish beets. They should be smaller than a tennis ball, in my opinion. When they get bigger, they can be woody in the middle, sometimes they are drier and they can be bitter. You want hard beets, with few cracks, but they shouldn’t look desiccated and shriveled. They might have some dirt, because they do grow underground after all. If you don’t want to mess with buying, cooking and peeling fresh beets, you can certainly used canned. They do work just fine. Just look at the ingredients and try to find a brand that contain only beets.

Pickled Beets
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 1-1½ quarts sliced beets

You can use one can of sliced beets to make these, if you would rather. Obviously you will skip the cooking and peeling parts and go right to the sugar and vinegar step. Drain the liquid from the beets before you add the vinegar and sugar, and then proceed with the recipe.

8-12 small to medium whole beets
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1/2-3/4 cup vinegar

Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once water is at a rolling boil, lower the heat to medium to medium low and boil, with the lid on, until the beets are tender all the way to the middle when pierced with a fork. This may take anywhere from 30-90 minutes, depending on the size of the beets.

Remove the beets from the water to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

Cut off the rough stem end of the beets and peel. The skins should come off with a minimum of effort. Slice the beets into about ¼-inch slices, cutting the slices in half if they are too large.

Combine sugar and vinegar to taste in a saucepan. The less sugar and the more vinegar, the sharper the vinegar bite will be. Add sliced beets. If there isn’t enough liquid to just barely cover the slices, add a little water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil for at least 5 minutes, longer if you like, but not until beets are mushy.

Transfer hot beets to jars or storage containers. Let cool to room temperature and store in the fridge. These keep for several weeks because of the vinegar. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 Download the recipe here.

8 thoughts on “Pickled Beets

  1. Harvard beets are good too – especially with a halibut or swordfish steak.


    1 (1 lb.) can beets, sliced (save liquid)
    1 tbsp. cornstarch
    1/2 tsp. salt
    Dash of pepper
    1 TBS Ketchup
    1/4 c. vinegar
    1 tbsp. sugar

    Drain beets, reserving liquid. Add enough water to beet juice to make 2/3 cup liquid. Combine cornstarch, salt and pepper in saucepan. Add liquid, ketchup and vinegar. Stir until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Add sliced beets and sugar, heat through.

  2. I cook the beets and shred them on the big holes of a grater. Taste them for sweetness, add a little drizzle of oil, add a sprinkle of vinegar and 1/2 tsp of a hot pepper paste and some chopped up onions. Serve them with crispy fried pork-belly. . I also make a delicious beet salad with sour apple and herring. We also love beets as you can tell.

      • Boiled potatoes cut in small cubes, add the shredded beets(left-over from dinner the night before) add small cubes of apple,cut up pickles,cut up cucumber, celery,cut sour herring (from a jar),add mayonnaise, some coarse mustard. Mix all together and taste. Put some nice lettuce leaves on a platter. Scoop beet mixture on lettuce. Decorate with sliced hard-boiled eggs,sliced tomatoes and sliced pickles. We eat this just like that. Nothing else with it.

  3. I love beets too! I’ll have to give these a try. Just posted a roasted beet summer salad perhaps you’d enjoy! Cheers.

  4. Sarah, I am also a beet lover and so is my husband so we have them often throughout the year. I have never grown them but I find them at my local farmer’s market in the summer and pickle them as you do. Another way we love them is as a great salad with any summer meal – Peel, slice, and roast in the oven which brings out the sweet flavors, place slices on top of Boston bib lettuce, topped with a dollop of any kind of creamy cheese and a few pecan halves with balsamic glaze for dressing. I like to use a spoonful of rondele cheese and make a spiral design with the balsamic glaze. Yummy to also add sliced strawberries to this combo .

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