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Pickled Beets

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 19 October 2011 at 12:09
I made these over the weekend, using the recipe below, which comes from the Ball Blue Book (1974):
 

Quote Beet Pickles

2 Cups sugar                                                  
3.5 cups vinegar                                  
1.5 cups water
1 tablespoon whole allspice    
1.5 teaspoon salt  
2 Sticks cinnamon
3 quarts peeled, cooked small beets

To cook beets: Wash and drain beets.  Leave 2 inches of stems and the tap roots. Cover with boiling water and cook until tender. 
 
Combine all ingredients, except beets; simmer 15 minuets.  Pack beets into hot canning jars, leaving one-half-inch headspace. (Cut larger beets in half, if necessary).  Remove cinnamon.  Bring liquid to
boiling.  Pour, boiling hot, over beets, leaving one-half-inch headspace.  Adjust caps.  Process pints and quarts 30 minutes in boiling water bath. 
 
Yield: about 6 pints
 
This recipe produces a great batch of easy-to-make and great-tasting goodies that can be served as a side dish for many meals, or served at parties, picnics or barbecues - or simply enjoyed at home for no reason at all. Pickled beets are a piquant delicacy with a wonderful and exotic combination of spices that are perfectly at home anywhere, whether on a paper plate under a hot, sunny, summer day, or next to a serving of roast beef and mashed potatoes for a satisfying evening meal in the darkest depths of winter ~ or straight out of the jar, any time.
 
In making these pickled beets, I enlisted the assistance of my mother, who has been canning and pickling as long as I can remember. To this day, the best kosher dill pickles I have ever had in my life come from the Ball and Kerr mason jars filled by her. She was glad to help with this project, but didn't have much patience for the photographic process ~ consequently, a few of these pictures are not quite as "polished" as I would like them to be, but no worries - the method is now preserved for posterity!
 
Her method differs very slightly in procedure from the recipe above, but it is essentially the same thing, and the ingredients are the same. You can follow the exact procedure of the recipe, or do it her way - results should be great no matter how you do it.
 
I started this project at my own house and then moved the operation out to mom's to be finished. Here are the beets, which turned out to be exactly enough to fill 6 pint-sized jars:
 
 
The beets are locally grown at a nearby Hutterite colony; always a source of delicious, freshly-picked produce!
 
First, based on her instructions, I scrubbed the beets and then cut off the stems and tops:
 
 
The recipe says to leave 2 inches of stems and tops, but this worked fine; a person could go with either procedure.

Next, I put them in a kettle and covered them with cold water:

And brought it to a boil:

You want to perform this step mostly so that the beets can be easy to peel, but also so that they become tender. Be sure that you don't peel the beets before boiling, or they will lose a lot of their colour. A person could drop them into boiling water, as per the recipe, but since I wasn't sure how full to fill the kettle, I simply did it this way. Well, actually, the main reason I did it this way was because Mom told me to! Either way seems to work....

Once the boiling started, I set the timer for one hour, so that the beets could boil until they were tender. I must say that while they were boiling, I was loving the aroma that filled the house. Beets are one of those vegetables that truly capture the essence of the land that they come from, and there is something very satisfying about cooking and eating them that brings you closer to your own roots with the land, even if you didn't realize you had those roots.

When the hour was finished, I drained the water, packed up the beets (still in the kettle) and the jars and headed out to my parents' house.

Once I got there, Mom was ready to go. Here are the goods for the pickling:
 

Over the years, she's found that it's best to set up a kind of station, where one can peel the beets over a "garbage bucket" and then toss them into a waiting container:

The skins and other "garbage" from the beets will get tossed into the garden to work back into the land.

As you can see, the "jackets" come off easily:

Most of the time, a knife wasn't even necessary; they simply peeled off.

Once you peel them, place them into a container to await the next step:

I suppose before they go into the container you could slice them, or quarter them - or cut them into chunks or cubes - whatever works best for you; however, this is the way Mom did it, so it's the way I do it. This site is about food, culture and history, and a very large part of that is preserving methods of preparation within the family and archiving what our previous generations have to teach us. I am guessing that every single person reading this right now regrets that there is something from his or her parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents - a story, a recipe or even just a memory - that is now lost forever. How many of us would, if we could, go back and record, write down or otherwise preserve even a small part of what is now lost? I know I would, but since time-travel is impossible, the best we can do is visit with our elders and save their wisdom now, while we can.

Once we finished skinning the beets, we turned our attention to preparing the pickling liquid. I measured the allspice, cinnamon and salt:

I was a little generous with the allspice and cinnamon, but not overly so. You want the finished product to hint at these flavours, but woudl also want all the components to work together in creating a whole new flavour, melding and mulling. Indeed, one thing I like best about this recipe is how you get a progression of flavours as you taste the beets, more than the sum of its components, but each one coming forward in its own turn. My favourite part is the way the cinnamon comes out at the end, just to remind you that it is there.

After adding those spices to the vinegar and water, we introduced the sugar:

 
And brought the entire mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and distribute the flavour:

Once the liquid just came to boiling, we reduced the heat and let it simmer gently for 15 minutes in order for the flavours to mull and marry.

During the simmering, we turned our attention to the beets and started filling the jars.

It goes without saying that you want the jars to be washed and in waiting in hot, hot water right up to this point; one reason is for cleanliness, but another is so that there will be no nasty surprises when you fill the jars with the boiling liquid. To keep it simple, we submerged the jars in the canning kettle, which should be heating up to almost-but-not-quite-boiling by now. Also the clean tops for the jars should be sleeping at the bottom of a clean sink or pan with very hot (but not boiling) water, along with the clean bands. Is everyone getting the clean theme, here?

Now we're ready for the fun part, packing the jars. Use tongs to grab a jar, emptying the water out of it and setting it on the counter. Pack the beets in the jar, leaving a half-inch of headspace as specified by the recipe (note: the "new" Ball book says to leave 1/4-inch headspace).

Some beets we sliced:

And other beets we cut into quarters or sixths, depending on size:

A person could also cut them into cubes, if desired.

Here are all the jars, ready to be filled with the pickling liquid:

Next, we brought the picking liquid back to boiling for one minute, removed the cinnamon sticks and then filled the jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace as directed (note: the "new" Ball book says to leave 1/4-inch headspace):

Be sure to distribute the allspice berries evenly amongst the jars!

Once the jars are full, remove any air bubbles, then wipe off the mouths of each jar with a hot, clean cloth that has been rung out:

Using tongs, remove a lid from the hot water and center it on a jar:

And then snug a band down on the lid to "finger-tight" (see comments in replies below). Repeat this procedure until all of the jars are covered and ready for processing.

Here are the jars ready to be lowered into the canning kettle, which you want to be full of water that is just ready to boil:

When lowering the jars into the kettle, you want to be sure that the tops of the jars are covered with at least an inch of water.

The rest is pretty standard. Consult your canning instructions in case there are any variances, but here's what we did: we brought the water to a good, rolling boil, then we covered the canning kettle and started the timer for processing. For our altitude, we added 5 minutes to the time given in the instructions, for a total of 35 minutes.

Once the time had passed, we used tongs to remove the jars and placed them on a clean, dry towel in an out-of-the-way area where there would be no draft so that they could cool:

You want to be careful as they come straight out of the boiling water, as a draft could cause the jars to burst.

After the jars had cooled, I labeled them, giving the product and the year:

I suppose I could have given the month as well, but this is good enough. The "official" line is that the pickled beets, like most home-canned foods, have a shelf life of up to one year, when stored in a cool, dry place; however, it has been my experience that they will last significantly longer ~ This also goes without saying, but if you ever see any signs of spoilage, open the jar and discard the lid and contents.

We finished exactly as the recipe said we should, with 6 pints of the finest pickled beets imaginable ~ much, much better than anything that could be bought at the store:

Now that you've seen how easy it is, I hope that you'll give it a try. If you like pickled beets, then this is a way to get the best, most economical pickled beets you will ever have. If you've never tried them, it's a cheap and easy way to possibly find a new favourite - and if it turns out that for some reason you don't like them, I can guarantee that you will be able to make a gift of the rest and give them to someone you know who absolutely loves them!

As always, if anyone has any questions, just ask.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DIYASUB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 October 2011 at 17:27
 Sounds good Ron, but I prefer mine to be a little different. I dont care for the spicey pickled beets, so I do them up a bit differently.
 First though, let me just agree with your Mom. I peeled beets with a potato peeler for years before I discovered that it is far easier to boil them first so the skins just slip right off. I'll never go back to the old way again.
 As to my recipe for the pickling solution, it's just vinegar, the water the beets were cooked in, a little sugar, and a pinch of salt.
 While the solution is boiling I slice the beets and layer them into the jars with freshly sliced onions.
 I then pour the boiling solution over them, cap them, and hot water bath them.
 That's all there is to it. As you said in your post, beets are easy.
 By the way, making your own pickled beets is also quite economical. When I did mine a couple of weeks ago I picked up a bag of beets that weighed 22lb.s for ten bucks. The onions came in a 2 1/2 pound bag at $2.99, and the Best Yet brand vinegar was $2.69 for a gallon jug. For that amount spent I ended up putting six quarts and seventeen pints of beets in my pantry. Not bad at all when you compare that to what a store charges for a jar that is smaller that a pint.
 
 Disclaimer: Inhaling the steam coming off the potful of boiling vinegar/water solution while you're ladling it into the jars wont kill you, but it will cause you to cough up things that you'd forgotten have been stored in the basement for years.LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 October 2011 at 09:08
Hey, bill ~ sounds like some interesting ideas there, and I am grateful for your putting them down. This way, folks can take a look and have some choices that will help them push their pickling efforts into one direction or another, depending on their tastes. Those beets of yours sound good and might be worth a try, if I can get (or better yet GROW) some more next year.
 
I think you hit the nail dead on the head when you brought up the economical factor here, and it extends to enarly all home canning, in my opinion. Like you, I had ancestors - within living memory - who went through the depression, and they learned to get the ebst bag for the buck in almost anything they did, especially where feeding the family is concerned. growing a garden and preserving the excess harvest is a great way to save money, as you demonstrated - but of course it is also the best way to get the best foods. Store-bought just doesn't compare, most of the time!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2012 at 03:01
Thanks ,great idea
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2012 at 16:09
Two comments for what they are worth, Ron.
 
First off, tightening the rings down that hard is not only not recommended, it can be dangerous. Rings should be screwed down only finger tight, so there is enough give that entrapped air can escape the jars. That's what forms the vacumn seal.
 
Second, it's a good idea to remove the rings once the jars have sealed. A couple of reasons for this. First, you can assure that there is no water trapped under the ring; which leads to rusting. And it allows you to confirm that the lid has, indeed, sealed properly.
 
What I do is invert the jar over a bowl and give it a good shake or two. If the seal isn't good everything tumbles into the bowl. You can then eat that immediately or reprocess as you desire.
 
An added benefit: you don't kneed a large collection of rings, as you'll be reusing them over and over again.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 September 2013 at 14:34
Brook - reagarding your comments, I saw the escaping air concept this weekend, and it does indeed make sense. I have also learned to take your advice and remove the rings, except for things such as pickles, jellies or other things that will be opened and then go back into the refrigerator; but then again, I guess that a person could simply get a ring out of the drawer and put it on  a newly-opened jar and putting it in the fridge, couldn't they?
 
As for the beets themselves, I had forgotten all about these until I saw them on the shelf this last weekend. Gave them a try and they were indeed delicious! I can heartily recommend this recipe and will indeed be making these again.
 
In the past, I had been neutral at best and ambivalent at worst where beets are concerned, but these were impressive - give them a try ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 September 2013 at 19:39
Beets are one of those things we grew into in this family. Neither of us liked them at all as kids. Later we tolerated them. And now we love 'em.

Sort of the root version of Brussels sprouts.

One comment on pre-cooking. The reason leaving stems and roots in place is that it minimizes bleeding. Try two batches side-by-side and you'll see that this does, indeed, make a difference.

Personally, I prefer roasting the beets to boiling them, because they take on a deeper flavor. Individually wrap them in foil (after first rubbing with a little oil) and pop 'em in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.

Whether boiled or roasted, the hotter they are the easier the skins slip. So there's a balancing act between peeling the beets and burning your fingers.

One late note: For opened jars, instead of the metal lids, Ball makes plastic screw-on caps. Since discovering them years ago I've never put a jar in the fridge with a metal lid & ring.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 September 2013 at 20:10
I'll have to try the roasting  sounds pretty good ~ i never knew about the plastic screw-on caps, but will definitely be looking for them as they are indeed a solution to a long-standing issue!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 September 2013 at 23:18
For some reason Ball has never made a big deal about them. Used to be you had to mail order them, after seeing a mention when buying new jars. Now they're usually stocked wherever canning supplies are sold. But you have to look for them.

They come in both sizes, so make sure you don't grab the wrong ones. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 September 2013 at 18:45
I've got lots of jars with lids like that. Great for storing all those odd dried ingredients and as brook said as the proper lid for opened jars.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 September 2013 at 22:55
And they're certainly cheap enough. We've got several dozen in both sizes, which we use both ways you suggest: for dry goods, especially grains and beans which we keep in half-gallon mason jars; and to replace the metal lid once a jar is opened.

Something to keep in mind, too: Some commercial mayonnaise jars still use the same size & screw pitch as mason jars. So it pays to experiment to find ones you can recycle. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 September 2016 at 09:14
Here is Brook's recipe for Spicy Pickled Beets -

Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

My recipe is an adaptation of a classic, which starts by cooking the beets. Instead, I run them raw through one of the Spirilizer blades, which produces shards (thus, chips). These then get cooked in the brine until tender (takes about 45 minutes or so).

Here's the basic recipe:

Spicy Pickled Beets

4 lbs beets, cooked and peeled
3 cups onions, sliced thin
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tbls mustard seed
1 tsp whole allspice berries
1 tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken

Combine all ingredients except beets in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer five minutes. Add beets and cook until heated. Remove cinnamon sticks.

Pack hot beets into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Pour hot pickling liquid over beets, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Process 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield: About four pints.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 September 2016 at 06:19
Variations on the theme:

From famed Lancaster, PA, restauranteur Betty Goff:

Pickled Herb Beets
5 lbs fresh beets
6 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups beet broth
1 cup water
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbls chopped fresh herbs (thyme, dill, oregano, etc.)

Wash but do not peel the beets. Place in a large kettle. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat until the beets are tender. Remove and let cool enough to handle. Peel and slice to desired thickness. Fill sterilized jars with the sliced beets, filling to one inch of the neck. Put the sugar, vinegar, beet broth, water, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil. Boil the syrup for two minutes. Ladle syrup over the beets, filling the jars to the neck, and seal. Do not move to storage area until completely cooled---at least 12 hours.

From one of those small cookbooks sold at country stores and the like, called “Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking,” come a recipe for

Beet Relish

2 lbs medium beets
1 small onion
1 sweet red pepper
2 cups cabbage shredded
¼ cup prepared horseradish
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups vinegar

Clean and pare the beets. Grind the beets, onion, and red pepper, using the fine cutter of the food chopper. Add the finely shredded cabbage, horseradish, salt, sugar and vinegar. Heat to boiling and simmer for 10 minutes. Seal in hot, sterilized jars and seal.

Note: As written, this recipe uses the open kettle method, which is in disrepute by all food safety authorities. To be safe, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Beets and cabbage may sound strange, but it’s a common combination in many cultures. For instance, here’s a Ukrainian variation, provided by Annette Ogrodnik Corona in her book, “The New Ukrainian Cookbook.”

Starokrayova Pryprava zi Suizhoyt Kapusty I Buriakiv
(Old Country Cabbage-Beet Relish)


3 cups apple cider vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tbls salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 cups finely shredded cabbage
4 cups shredded cooked red beets
1 cup freshly grated horseradish

Pour the vinegar into a medium, non-reactive saucepan and stir in the sugar, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and stir, making sure all the sugar is dissolved.

Meanwhile, mix the cabbage, beets, and horseradish together in a large glass bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the top and mix thoroughly. Pack into sterilized jars and seal with vinegar-proof (non-reactive) caps. Store jars in a cool place there they will keep for up to one-month.

Here, again, we’re talking about open-kettle canning. Process in a boiling water bath, 15 minutes, to be safe.

If you’ve followed Ron and my threads on Germans From Russia cuisine, it’s easy to conclude that preserves were an integral part of their lives. And so it is. Here, from “Sei Unser Gast (Be Our Guest)” is a recipe for

Grandma’s Pickled Beets

Wash and cook whole beets until tender. Drain, peel and slice. In a saucepan, mix one cup sugar, one cup cider vinegar, and one cup water. Tie two tablespoons mixed pickling spices (remove the red peppers) in cheesecloth and add the spice bag to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Put the sliced beets into the pickling solution and bring to a boil again; simmer for five more minutes. Pack beets into hot, sterilized pint jars. Fill to ½” of the jar rims with the boiling pickling solution. Seal with sterilized lids and rings. Process pints five minutes in a boiling water bath.
But we hae meat and we can eat
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Excellent, Brook - many thanks for sharing these.
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