The Pickled “Beet” Goes On

Finished pickled beets have a lovely color.

Finished pickled beets have a lovely color.

I guess I went a little bit overboard but really, this time it’s not my fault. I planted the beets eight weeks ago and we immediately had a month of constant, unrelenting rain.

Fearing the worst and not wanting to be beet deprived I replanted in another bed. As soon as the seeds were in the ground we had a month of Texas-style heat here in Western Massachusetts.

Once again I assumed a failed crop so I replanted again. Of course a few days back, I happened upon bed number one and discovered a terrific crop of beets. And the second bed has sprouted too, and now I find myself with an embarrassment of beets. It’s far too early for any of these beets to go in the root cellar; I’ll plant a late crop for that so these ‘early’ ones will need to be pickled. And pickled and pickled.

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Try fermenting pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It’s available now at Lehmans.com.

Fortunately, we all love pickled beets around here and the options are just about unlimited. I’ll do some as a canned pickle, some pickled with eggs and some will be lacto-fermented with cabbage and carrots into a kind of tart, juicy slaw. It will keep in a cool [place for several months later in the season but in this heat I’ll make smaller batches and keep it in the refrigerator.

Today it’s pickled beets and eggs. How lovely is it that I have this abundance of small beets at the same moment I’m overwhelmed with eggs? Whenever possible I go with the lazy way of preserving food.

In this case, I made a batch of pickled beets early this morning. They have just finished cooling so I took out one quart and opened that. I boiled up a couple of eggs and set them to cool. Then I ate a dish of beets (it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it) so there would be room in the jar and added two peeled, hard boiled eggs. By tonight the red juice will have infiltrated the eggs. I’ll slice them up and place the beets and eggs on a bed of lettuce.

Slice hard-boiled or pickled eggs neatly with our heavy-duty egg slicer. Available at Lehmans.com.

Slice hard-boiled or pickled eggs neatly with our heavy-duty egg slicer. Available at Lehmans.com.

Peel Hard Boiled Eggs Perfectly
If you have trouble peeling eggs let me tell you my foolproof way. Start with week-old eggs. New ones will never peel well. Put eggs in a pan of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. You might go 17 minutes for very large eggs. Now cover eggs with cold water for 15 minutes. Change the water if it gets warm. (Be sure to pour the egg water in your plants, they’ll love the calcium!) Give the eggs a sharp rap and then roll them between your palms until the shell is loosened. Now peel under running water. Perfect every time.

To have perfect pickled beets and eggs, pop the eggs in with the beets and keep cold for several hours. Overnight is better. Three days is best but mine never last that long.

Here’s my beet recipe. I like Andrea Chessman’s method of baking rather than boiling beets.

Kathy Harrison’s Pickled Beets
Bake about 30 pounds of well-scrubbed medium beets, minus the greens, in a 400 degree oven in a sheet pan for about an hour. Give them a stir every 15 minutes or so or else they may stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the beets are barely tender, take them out and cover with cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Next, slip off the skins. You can leave them whole or slice them if they are large.

Pour off the water and fill hot, 1 quart canning jars with beets, leaving ½ inch head space.

Use a rack to get jars in and out of canner easily. More canning tools at Lehmans.com.

Use a rack to get jars in and out of canner easily. More canning tools at Lehmans.com.

Combine 12 cups cider vinegar, 3 cups water, 2 cups sugar and 6 tablespoons pickling salt in a Dutch oven. Prepare a spice bag with six 2-inch cinnamon sticks and 15 whole cloves. You can substitute any pickling spice blend if you prefer. Simmer vinegar brine for 5 minutes, then pour over beets in the jars. Seal and process jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

While you can eat the pickles as soon as they cool, the flavor is a lot better if they sit for a solid month. In fact, give them 6 weeks if you plan to enter them in an agricultural fair where they judge on taste as well as appearance.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.