We eat pickled beets all year round. Since you can only get good tasting beets in the summer from Farmer’s Markets, I do a big canning batch every year or two, budgeting a jar per month for the two of us and an extra or two for a friend. Since beets are so messy (everything in your kitchen turns purple), I prefer to set a half day aside and do multiple batches. That way it’s only one clean up.
I have found 3 types of beets at the markets for canning (I only use red beets – the fancier varieties, such as candy cane, are too expensive for canning and don’t look as pretty – they are better for cooking and eating). The large round beets I cut into wedges, the small round beets I can whole, and the long, tubular ones – those I slice. My preference is for the longer ones as they peel the easiest and you can really pack them into the jars not using as much vinegar mixture as the little round ones. You can also find them at a better price point. But they do freak me out when I cook them (they are quite, well, odd looking).
First: let your kitten inspect your purchase. I used all the remaining coins from my garage sale in the Spring for these beets.
Next, sort and wash. I like to cook them together based on size – the little ones took about 30 minutes and the long ones just over 40 minutes. I boil them whole, untrimmed.
While they boil, get your set up ready. I felt like Dexter the way I cover everything with plastic. Junk mail (flyers) are great to use as well.
Get your jars and lids ready, mix up your vinegar mixture, because the moment your beets are done they get drained, plunged in cold water and peeled (cut off the ends, slip off the skins).
My vinegar mixture: 2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar per batch. Then you choose your spice combination, and either tie it up in some cheesecloth or just let it perfume your water and then use a strainer when pouring it into jars (that’s what I did). I also put 1 allspice berry (from the vinegar mixture) in each jar.
Options (per 1 batch of vinegar):
- 2 tsp whole allspice (this is what I did – you get lovely flavours of cloves, cinnamon, etc. when using good quality allspice).
- traditional – 3 TBSP pickling spice
- sweet – 2 cinnamon sticks & 10 whole cloves
- caraway – 2 TB caraway seeds & 2 tsp black peppercorns
Let your imagination take flight. Use whole star anise, or red pepper flakes, whatever flavours you love.
Time for peeling – not a lot of photos as my hands were purple, but my husband came and peeled for a few minutes as I got a batch going (his fingers below). Beets sure are odd looking things!
These got sliced and hot beets are packed into hot jars and filled with hot liquid. Make sure you check for air bubbles with a mini spatula and wipe the rims well.
Processing is 30 minutes for 500 ml jars. Here in Calgary we add 10 minutes for altitude, and I leave them in for 5 minutes after turning off the stove before taking them out. So that means 45 minutes/batch. It helps when you have 2 boiling water canners going as I do.
It is important to let them sit for 24 hours, making sure they seal. Unsealed ones should be refrigerated. I like to take the rings off, wipe the jars, rinse the rings, let them dry. Put them back on, label and store in a cool, dark place. They need at least a month for pickling to start, I tend to leave them a year (these will be for next year).
If you have any extra beets/vinegar, put in a jar in your fridge. They won’t be as strong tasting, but make great toppings for burgers, or can be used in salads, etc.
Above is my fridge jar – yum. Hope you will enjoy your beets as much as we do! And at least you have plenty of hot water left over to de-purple your kitchen.