10 September 2012
Pickled once, pickled twice
Pickled beets are very nice.
I've been meaning to can some pickled beets for just about the entire summer. The thing is, I've never made pickled beets before, so I needed to find a good recipe. Online research revealed a whole lot of recipes featuring large amounts of sugar. Well and good--except that I historically strongly dislike sweet pickles. So I was pretty relieved when I found the simplest of pickled beet recipes. It not only required no sugar, but was by Marisa "Food in Jars" McClellan. Obviously, this was the perfect candidate.
Right! So I bought two bunches of massive softbally beets at the farmer's market--one red and one golden--and set out for pickletown.
I estimated I'd be able to fill about 5 pints, so I made extra brine. This turned out to be a good plan. Item: it would probably be good to get a kitchen scale if you want to have a really clear idea of how many jars you're going to be able to fill.
Start by washing your beets and trimming off their leaves. Cut the stems about an inch above the body of the beet, and leave the trailing root ends intact. (Keep your beet greens and saute them with garlic for dinner later.) Then put your beets in a pot, cover them with water, and put them on to boil.
Try to boil your beets in a pan bigger than this. I'm just saying.
No disasters actually occurred. However, just imagine the horror that could ensue with that much boiling beet juice. You do NOT want your beets to boil over.
While you're boiling your beets, prep all your canning equipment. Put the water bath on to boil, sterilize jars, warm lids and rings, etc. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation's boiling water canning guidelines if you haven't canned before.
My beets were gigantic, so they took about an hour to cook through. Smaller beets will take somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 45 minutes.
When your beets are tender to the point of a knife, drain them and let them cool enough to touch. A cold water bath is not a bad idea here.
Peel the cooked beets by rubbing them with your fingers. The skins will come right off. This is also the point at which your beets will suddenly get ultra-messy, so make sure to wear something that can potentially get beet juice all over it, and keep some towels handy for wiping up puddles of red, red juice before they stain your counter.
Slice the peeled beets into whatever size and shape you desire. I made a lot of quarters and smaller chunks. "Smaller" is relative here, of course.
When your beets are all prepared, make the brine. I used 3 cups of water, 3 cups of apple cider vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of pickling salt. Bring it all to a boil and cook until the salt is completely dissolved. Keep your brine hot.
Now it's time to pack your jars, one at a time. Put a tablespoon of pickling spice in your first jar. Pack the jar with beets. Pour the hot brine over your beets to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Use a chopstick to release as many air bubbles from your jar as possible. Top up the brine if needed before wiping the jar's rim. Top your jar with a hot lid, screw the band to finger tightness, and deposit your jar in your canning rack. Repeat until you're out of beets and brine.
Since I was using both red and golden beets, I ended up with a delightful multicolored variety of pickles. Hooray! I had a few pieces of beet left over, so I poured over the last few bits of brine, added a little bit of pickling spice, and stuck them in the fridge for instant beet pickle.
Process your pickles in a boiling water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel or wire rack on your counter. Let cool for 24 hours. As the cans cool, they'll seal themselves with a loud ping. Hooray! Science!
Test your jar seals before storing your pickled beets. You can do this by trying to lift the jar by the lid (rings removed) or pressing the center of lid to see if it snaps up and down. If any jars didn't seal, just put them in the refrigerator and eat them within a week or two.
What can you do with pickled beets? The classic solution is "put them in salad." If you like beets on burgers, you can put a slice on your burger. If you like the classic ploughman's lunch of bread, cheese, and pickles, beets are an admirable addition. And there's definitely something to be said for a little dish of pickled beets treated as an ordinary vegetable, served alongside whatever main dish you might be having for dinner.
Hooray! Pickled beets! I can't wait to try these.
What are you guys pickling and preserving this fall?