8/24/11

In the Kitchen: Pickled Beets

This may be the one and only vegetable I harvest from my garden this year, and so I'm making the most of it.  I like to do small batch canning, and as it turns out, my five pounds of beets translates into five pints of pickled beets. 

(Note to self:  This is a good rule of thumb.  One pound = one pint.  Isn't there an expression like that?  "A pint's a pound the world around."  Works for me, being a lover of little memory hooks like that.  Are you trying to remember something?  I probably know a memory hook for it.)

Ahem.  (Easily distracted.)  So my recipe for pickled beets comes from this book, The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich:



I like this book for the simplicity of the recipes, and for the fact that they are small batch recipes.  Begin by trimming your beets, leaving the root and about two inches of greens.  Then give them a good scrub.  Place them in a large pot with just enough water to cover them and boil them until they are just cooked through.


This is a good application for the stock pot that Erik gave me for Christmas many years ago.  A good stock pot is worth its weight in gold.  I use mine all the time.  I especially like this one because it has a collander that lifts out.


My beets were ready in about 15 minutes.  While they boil, you can measure out the ingredients for your pickling liquid.  Measure out one cup of sugar, one cup of brown sugar and two teaspoons of pickling salt.



You will also want to measure out two cinnamon sticks (broken in half), one tablespoon of whole allspice berries, and one teaspoon of whole cloves.  Place the whole spices on a scrap of cheesecloth,



and tie it into a bundle.  A tea infuser works for this as well.



Then you'll want four cups of apple cider vinegar and two cups of water.



When the beets are finished boiling, drain off the hot water, and cover them with cold water, allowing them to cool enough to handle.  Then, trim off the root end, the greens, and slip the skins off.  (Really, it's that easy.  They slip right off when you rub them a little with your fingers.)


When the beets are all prepared, you are ready to pack your jars.  But first, get your pickling liquid going.  Mix the sugars, salt, vinegar, and water in a saucepan,


and drop in the spice bundle.


The spices will infuse the pickling liquid.  Bring it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for ten minutes.  While it simmers, you can pack your jars.  (Now is the time to make sure your hands and anything else that comes into contact with the jars is scrupulously clean.) 

I left the smaller of the beets whole and quartered the largest ones.


Be sure to leave enough room at the top of the jar.  When the pickling liquid is ready, remove the spice bundle.  The spices will have given their all, and so you can simply discard them.



Now you are ready to ladle the liquid into the jars and lid them, one jar at a time.



Use a funnel for this purpose and save yourself a big mess.  Aside from keeping things really clean, the single most important thing you can do to assure your safe success (in my humble opinion) is to wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth before lidding them.


Then place the lid on top


and screw down the band.  The band should be finger tight, but not overly so.  There needs to be room for the air inside the jar to escape while it processes so that it can form a vacuum and seal the jar.  You will be able to adjust the bands (or remove them) later.


When you have all the jars filled and lidded, they are ready to be processed.



Load them into the rack for your boiling water bath canner, distributing the weight as evenly as possible.  Then, carefully lower them into your canner.  The water should be at a full rolling boil.



Process them for 30 minutes (according to my recipe).  However, you will need to make adjustments for altitude if you live above 1,000 feet, as I do.  My jars were processed for 35 minutes, but please consult your own resource for the proper amount at your elevation.  Below 1,000 feet, just follow the instructions in your recipe.

When the jars have finished processing, carefully lift the rack from your canner.  They will be rocket hot, so be very careful when handling them.



Removing them from the rack is best done with a jar lifter.  I like to place them on a towel when the glass is very hot.


To my eyes, there are few things more gratifying than canned goods fresh from the canner . . . still hot. 



They are as beautiful as rubies.  Other things on my "gratifying" list:
  • Taking the last stitch in a quilt binding.
  • A good man who will help you clean up all the mess you made while canning the vegetables that you grew.
  • A good stout cat for patting.


5 comments from clever and witty friends:

quiltzyx said...

Beets are such a beautiful color!!! I need some fabric that color - just like they are in your jars.

Sarah said...

Hmm...I never thought to adjust canning recipes for over 1000 feet - were are 1300something. Will have to check my canning cookbook.

Anne said...

Makes my mouth water! Simply divine!

Snoodles said...

Oh, I'm so with you!
I put up ten pints of sweet cucumber pickles yesterday, and I so agree about the man that will help with the clean up....and the kitty for patting. How could I miss him? He was next to my ankles the whole time! LOL

Snoodles said...

The kitty, that is!