Pickled beets are one of my favorites but for some reason I had a lot of trouble finding good beets this year. You want to have beets with one or two inches of tops and a root.
Having the tops and roots in tact keep your beets from bleeding out, results in the best flavor and preserves the nutritional value. And maybe it’s just me, but I think they are easier to peel. Every farm market I stopped at either didn’t have beets or they had been cut to the quick. A friend picked a bushel up for me from an Amish farm in the area. Now I know exactly where to shop for my beets.
Beets are kind of messy, especially when you start peeling and slicing or dicing. I diced. Bite size dices.
Cook your beets in a big, heavy pot, simmering until they are just tender. Then I dump them into my sink and start peeling. I wore gloves through the entire process so my hands wouldn’t be “beet red” and so that I could easily handle the hot beets. Be careful in your kitchen as well because beet juice can permanently stain. If you’re not wearing gloves, allow the beets to cool down before attempting to peel them.
Pickling Brine Ingredients: (For about 5 pounds of beets)
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks broken up (use a hammer and a towel)
1 T whole allspice
1 T whole cloves
1 T mustard seed
1 T pickling salt
Combine all of the brine ingredients. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved. I made a double batch.
Once the beets have been cooked, peeled, and sliced or diced fill hot jars with the beets. Ladle the hot pickling brine over the beets leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Make sure to wipe the jar rims clean. Center the lids and adjust the bands. Place your jars in the rack elevated over simmering water in water bath canner, repeating until all jars are filled. Process pint jars in the water bath for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let jars cool for 5 minutes. Remove jars to cool on a heavy towel or wire racks for 12 hours.
You frequently see pickled beets on salad bars and they are particularly good on a Greek salad. They’re a beautiful addition to a relish tray.
NOTE: I remember my mother saving the brine from the pickled beets and pouring it over hard boiled eggs. They would sit in the refrigerator for days and when you sliced them they were pink through to the yolk and had a great pickled flavor. Beet juice is used as a natural red food coloring in everything from candy, to ice cream, to tomato sauces. Even some breakfast cereals. Beets are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They are said to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. So eat your beets!
One more interesting factoid. 10-15% of adults experience beeturia (red urine) after eating beets.