And the Beet Goes On…
That’s right, folks! Pickling time is here again!
It seems too early in the year for putting up food; it’s mid-August and the 80 degree days are trying to keep winter far from my thoughts, for the time being. We’ve had an incredible year in the garden, with veggies literally overflowing from their beds, and as they ripen and are picked, the next question is always: What to do with them now?
For those of your veggies that don’t make it into a meal, or neighbor’s hands, preserving is always the best way to proceed. From pickling and canning, to making jams or sauces, to hanging and drying, the possibilities when it comes to storing food for later months. Today’s project: Pickling Beets!
Beets must be boiled for about 30 minutes (this time changes depending on the size and freshness of your beets) before they can be prepped for canning. Leaving the stems and roots attached for this step ensures maximum color-retention. Once they pass the fork-test, they need to cool until they can be handled.
Once the roots and stems are cut off, the skin must be removed. The boiling process should have made this very easy – if it isn’t, the beets aren’t ready yet! I drag a knife blade sideways across the surface of the beet, from top to bottom (just like wood, certain vegetables also have a grain-direction!). You can do this with your fingernails, also. The skin should peel right off, leaving you with a perfectly smooth beet to cut into pieces.
I like to cut my beets into rough heart-shapes. Regardless of whether you choose to make them into a shape or just cut them into discs is up to you! We will be giving the completed jars away as gifts around the holidays, so I think the added effort of shaping the beets is a nice consideration. Don’t worry! The “leftover” parts that I cut off during the shaping process are still used! I throw them in as little filler-chunks, or make a few jars with oddball shapes, for us to use at home.
Finding the perfect vinegar recipe to pickle with is a task unto itself. I’ve never pickled beets on my own before, which means I’ve never had to choose the brine! This year I looked through countless recipes, but they all called for something like cinnamon, or cloves, or orange peels… I like the way beets taste, and didn’t want to cover them up with a whole bunch of unnecessary (and very strong!) flavors. I chose to make up my own filler, using apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt. I added slices of raw vidalia onion to each jar, layering them with the beets, and poured the heated vinegar over top.
My friend Kayla helped me with this next stage of the project (along with taking some of these pictures for me). She used a butter knife to poke down into the jars around the sides; this helps to eliminate any larger air bubbles from the liquid. The rim of each jar then needed to be wiped to make sure they are not sticky, and that they are dry. Next up, lids! Make sure they are on tight before putting them in the water!
All-in-all, this was less than half a day’s work, and we ended up with 2 dozen jars of pickled beets! I was even able to give the cooked stems and roots to the chickens. Next year I plan to plant many more beets – this was so fun!