Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Sustainable Living: Beets

As we wind down Gardening (and thus Canning) season, there is still a bit more to discuss on these issues. This week, I'm going to be talking about Beets. Personally, I've never been a big fan of beets, but Catherine loves them, and so we planted a bunch at the garden this year. And boy, did we get some monsters. Below is a photograph of the biggest one we got, sitting next to my 8" Chef's Knife.


I've talked about Beets before, briefly, on the post regarding Kvass, but with this batch of beets, we opted for a different approach. Beets get their deep red/purple color from betalain pigments, which is different from most red/purple plants. And beets are all different, we planted two varieties, one which was a deep purple, while the other was more red with some white striping. Incidentally, the deep purple was far, far easier to peel, but we'll get there in a few moments.

Just as important as the beets, are the greens coming out of their tops. If you want to harvest these (and you really should), you'll need to cut them off as soon as possible. They can be cooked and served as Spinach, or served raw in a salad. The danger here is that, while the roots can remain at room temperature for a fair while (particularly if that room is a root cellar), the greens should be washed and refrigerated quickly. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of greens because we were busy last week with the tomatoes.

For preparing all the beets, we opted for pickling, specifically canning pickles. To start, we washed the beets as thoroughly as we could (root vegetables get dirty, go figure). Then I chopped them up into smaller pieces, that were roughly equitable with the smallest beets we had (and we had some small ones, thin out your beets when you plant from seeds people!) Put them in simmering water for about thirty minutes. This was tricky as even the biggest pot I had could barely handle all those beets and water. After about thirty minutes, I dumped out the water, and poured ice onto the pot, and refilled the pot with cool water.

While I should have begun peeling immediately, Catherine got home with food for dinner, so we sat and ate for a bit before getting back to work. Once we finished, Catherine started peeling the beets, while I began chopping the beets into roughly half-inch pieces before packing them into jars. We got 5 quarts and 7 pints packed. Quite a bit of beets. With that done, I began warming the jars and making the brine. The brine was a simple brine.

  • 3.5 cups Vinegar (I used Apple Cider)
  • 2.5 cups Water
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Bring all that to a rolling boil, then drop the temperature to a simmer for 15 minutes. This was enough for about 3 quarts, so I did have to adjust the recipe a bit, but scaling is fairly easy. Once the jars were warm and the brine was ready, I pulled the jars off the heat, and filled them with the brine. Beets and Brine should leave about 1/4" of head-space in the jars. Once all the jars are filled, put hot lids on them, screw them down, and drop the jars into boiling water to heat process for about 30 minutes.

Two days later, the contents of the jars is a deep, deep purple, and we'll be leaving them to age for about a month before we start to open them, but this should result in a slightly sweet pickle which will be good in salads or just as a snack. Plus, the pickling should fortify the vitamin C content, and beets have about nine times as much protien as fat, if you concern yourself with such things, making them an all around healthy food. In Australia and New Zealand, they use Pickled Beets on Burgers the way we use Tomatoes or Onion, that may well be worth trying, if like me you've never been the biggest fan of this red root.