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.

The Best Laid Plans…

I had great plans for my day today. My list included spin class, running to the produce farm and the grocery store, making bagels, vacuuming, making stuffed shells for dinner and doing a load of laundry. Things took on a life of their own as the day went on.

I started the bagel dough after my workout, and left it to rise while I ran the errands. It ended up rising longer than it should have, since I took time to unload the car and eat lunch before dealing with it. When I opened the trunk I realized I had managed to set something on the peaches from the farm. Add “slice squashed peaches” to list. When I was putting the rest of the produce away, I found beets in the crisper that I bought at least three weeks ago to make pickled beets (I’m glad root vegetables keep). Add “cook beets” to the list.

I realized that we had absolutely no bread in the house – a rarity for a baker. Usually there is something hiding in the freezer, but no. Add “bake bread” to the list. I figured I was already in the kitchen, so one more batch of dough wouldn’t be too much. It wouldn’t have been, without the bagels, the peaches, the beets and the stuffed shells.

I plugged away at my list, trying to be as efficient as possible. During a break in the kitchen action I took a minute to put laundry in the dryer, only to find yesterday’s clean laundry. Oops. Add “fold laundry” to the list.

Oh, and did I mention spilling beet boiling water all over the kitchen? I always close drawers after I get what I need. Except today. When I was taking the beet pan to the sink to pour off the water the pan slipped, pouring magenta water into two (count them) drawers, down the front of the cabinets, inside a cabinet door, on the floor, on the counter. Add “clean up pink mess” to the list (at least I missed my shoes).

At the end of it all, I had a dozen bagels, one loaf of bread and 16 rolls (I doubled the bread recipe because I obviously don’t know when to stop), ready-to-eat sliced peaches in the fridge, pickled beets all for me (I’m the only one who eats them around here), two loads of folded laundry, a clean kitchen floor and dinner ready to go in the oven. The vacuuming will have to wait until tomorrow.