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Preserving a fall harvest is experience like no other, and every home chef should try canning at least once.  Dad’s Canned Pickled Beets is the perfect place to start.  Sweet, vinegary, and fork-tender, these beets will keep you smiling all winter long!

This post and its photos were updated July 31, 2018.

I don’t care what anyone says, it’s the foods you grew up eating which become the comfort food you crave as an adult. And, strangely, it’s the foods that your mom and dad prepared for you that remind you of your childhood, your innocence, and a simpler time.

I’ve tried dishes that wonderfully talented cooks have prepared, yet, they fail in comparison to the same dish my mom or dad prepared years ago.  Some of those recipes, I’ve taken from my parents and have improved upon them, but for the most part, I leave them just as they are, because as they are is the best they can be!

This recipe is one of them; a classic pickled beet that my dad still makes to this day.  I’ve not changed it, even though most canning experts will recommend adding cloves or pickling spice, etc.  I cannot bring myself to change something as deliciously simple and satisfying as my dad’s homemade pickled beets.

The hardest part of making this recipe is boiling the beets.  It does take quite some time, and is a perfect recipe for a rainy, cool Saturday afternoon.  Start by washing the beets really well.  Don’t cut off the stem or the tail of the beet no matter how much you want too!  Doing this will allow the beet to drain of it’s natural deep, red colour.  You’ll want to preserve that colour!

Once you’ve properly washed them (I use running cold water and a potato brush), place them into a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high.  You can place a lid on the pot to speed up the cooking time, but be careful that the water doesn’t boil over.  The water will turn a dark red and might make quite the mess!

When the beets are fork tender, drain into a large colander and allow them to cool.  In the meantime, in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, the sugar, water, and vinegar.  Stir occasionally and once boiled, reduce to a simmer.

With only your fingers as a tool, apply a mild pressure to the skin of the beet and push to remove the skin.  This takes some patience, depending on how many beets you’ve cooked, but you want to avoid cutting the flesh of the beet away with a knife.  Once done, slice off what is remaining of the stem and the tail, and cut the beets any way you desire.  I like to quarter them and then quarter them again so that they resemble orange sections.  You can slice them too; the choice is yours.

Pack the sliced beets into sterilized mason jars.  (See note on sterilization below.)  I like to use a metal funnel to avoid any of the beets coming into contact with the rim of the jar.  This will help to create a better and safer seal.  Fill the jar with the beets and ladle in the syrup leaving at least 1/4-1/2 inch headspace.  Remove the funnel and place a warmed, sterilized seal on the jar.  (See note on sterilization below.)  Screw on the lid until just snug.  Be careful!  The jar will be hot!  Use a kitchen towel to hold the jar in place as you screw on the lid.

Using a jar lifter, place the filled jars back into the large pot of boiling water.  Be sure the jars are not touching the bottom of the pot.  This might cause the jar to break.  I use a circular cooling rack that fits right into the bottom of my pot.  (If you have a canning pot with a wire jar rack, then you won’t need to worry about this.)

Bring the pot back to a boil and allow the jarred beets to remain in the boiling water for 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the jars and place on a kitchen towel where they will not be disturbed.  As the jars cool, you’ll hear a popping sound.  This is the hot liquid and air in the jar cooling down and contracting.  This will create an air-tight seal and will allow you to store your beets for future consumption.

For best results, I recommend allowing the jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.  With a damp cloth, wipe down the jars, retighten the lids, and store in a dark, cool place.  These jarred beets will last for 12-18 months.  Lastly, if you notice that a jar has not properly sealed, simply refrigerate that particular jar, and eat them within 5-7 days.  To test whether or not the jars are sealed, lightly press down on the seal.  If the seal pops downward, the sealing process did not work.  To be completely honest, I’ve been canning for many years, and I’ve rarely had this occur.

There you have it!  I always keep a jar in the refrigerator because I like them to be cold.  I often will eat two or three pieces right from the jar like you would a pickle.  I also love to serve them with a turkey dinner in place of the cranberries.  And they are a great addition to a spinach salad with walnuts and feta cheese!

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Dad's Canned Pickled Beets

Course: Preserves, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Preserves
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 36 servings
Calories: 99kcal
Author: Lord Byron's Kitchen
Preserving a fall harvest is experience like no other, and every home chef should try canning at least once.  Dad's Canned Pickled Beets is the perfect place to start.  Sweet, vinegary, and fork-tender, these beets will keep you smiling all winter long!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds beets, boiled until fork tender, cooled and skin removed (see notes)
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Instructions

  • Once the beets are boiled and cooled, follow the peeling and cutting directions in the notes section.
  • Next, add the vinegar, water, and sugar to a sauce pan.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.  Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer.
  • In the meantime, prepare the jars by following the instructions in the notes section.
  • Use a canning funnel to fill the jars with the beets. A canning funnel will help to keep the rim of the jars clean which will help to guarantee a better seal.
  • Ladle in the brine, leaving at least 1/4-1/2 inch head space. Remove the funnel and place a warmed, sterilized seal on the jar, followed by a ring.  Tighten just until snug.  
  • Using a jar lifter, place the filled jars back into the large pot of boiling water.  See notes.  Bring back to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, start a timer for 20 minutes.
  • Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars and place on a kitchen towel where they will not be disturbed. As the jars cool, you’ll hear a popping sound. This is the hot liquid and air in the jar cooling down and contracting. This will create an air-tight seal and will allow you to store your beets for future consumption.
  • For best results, I recommend allowing the jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours. With a damp cloth, wipe down the jars, re-tighten the lids, and store in a dark, cool place. These jarred beets will last for 12-18 months. Lastly, if you notice that a jar has not properly sealed, simply refrigerate that particular jar, and eat them within 5-7 days.

Notes

One serving is about 1/4 cup.
To peel the beets without a knife, using only your fingers as a tool, apply a mild pressure to the skin of the beet and push to remove the skin.  This takes some patience, depending on how many beets you’ve cooked, but you want to avoid cutting the flesh of the beet away with a knife.  Once done, slice off what is remaining of the stem and the tail, and cut the beets any way you desire.
To sterilize your jars, wash the jars well in hot, soapy water.  Rinse the soap off in hot running water and place the clean jars into a large pot of water.  Bring to a boil and allow the jars to sit in the boiling water, fully submerged, for at least 5 minutes.  Avoid contact with the inside of the jar and the rim.  To sterilize the seals and lids, wash them as you did the jars, and boil water in your kettle. Pour the boiled water into a clean bowl and drop the seals and lids into the water. Be sure the lids and seals and completely submerged.
Once I remove the jars from the boiling water, I usually place them rim side up on a baking sheet and leave them in my oven that is set to 200 degrees.  This will keep the jars just warm enough until you're ready to fill them.
Be sure the jars are not touching the bottom of the pot.  This might cause the jar to break.  I use a circular cooling rack that fits right into the bottom of my pot.  (If you have a canning pot with a wire jar rack, then you won’t need to worry about this.) 

Nutrition

Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 0g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 99mg | Potassium: 409mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 0.8% | Vitamin C: 7.5% | Calcium: 2.1% | Iron: 5.6%

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This Post Has 59 Comments

  1. I cannot wait to try these Byron! Here in Florida, we don't usually get fresh beets until the winter...but as soon as I see them at our market, I'm going to get them to try this! I LOVE beets!
    1. I love beets and tried this recipe two weeks ago! WOW are they good. They are like a candy that you can't stop eating. I am going to do another 10 pounds today as I share a lot of them with friends and family! Please don't change anything about this recipe and you too will share this with all...
      1. Thank you so much, Rick. I hope you don't mind that I recently updated the photos and instructions. No need to worry though; the recipe did not change at all! :)
  2. Hi Byron, Those are beautiful Pickled Beets, looks like you have a really good recipe. Our Beets will be ready in the garden before long and we will be pickling the beets, there is nothing like home canned! Hope you are having a great day and thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday. Come Back Soon! Miz Helen
  3. Congratulations! Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday today! Hope you have a special day and enjoy your new Red Plate. Come Back Soon! Miz Helen
  4. I'm just doing the round-up for #CreditCrunchMunch but can't see that you've linked to myself for Fuss Free Helen or put the badge? Do tweet me if you can add the links and badge today or I can't include this entry I'm afraid.
  5. When I make my pickled beets I boil them, peel them. have the syrup boiling , put them in hot sterile jars and put the lids on tight, why do recipes say they should go into a hot bath after all that, what is the purpose of that? I have never put mine in a hot bath after sealing?
    1. Hi Earl. I know other canners who follow the same process that you do. I will use the hot water bath method to ensure a proper seal, because when I prepare beets, I like to be assured that they are sealed tightly so that I can store them in my pantry for at least a year.
    1. Alice, I noticed your comment from August and I’m wondering if you tried it with apple cider vinegar. I made this recipe a few weeks ago and it’s really good. Wondering how they’d taste with apple cider vinegar.
  6. Hi Byron, It's my first time trying pickled beets and canning for that matter. This may be a stupid question but here it goes ... can you eat the beats as soon as they are canned or you have to let them sit for a few days/weeks/months before they are ready?
    1. Hi Julie! That's not a stupid questions at all. Yes, of course you can eat the beets right away. I would recommend you let the cool down first and come to room temperature. With that said, though, the longer you let the beets sit, the better they will taste.
    1. Hi Susan, It's perfectly safe to water can almost anything that has a high sugar/vinegar content. I never pressure can anything like beets or tomatoes - always water bath canning.
  7. Not sure if this is a silly question but I have a smaller amount of beets but would still like to can what I have. Can I half the brine recipe?
  8. This was my mom's and my grandmother's recipe. I have a hard time eating ones with cloves or other spices because I am used to this simple recipe. In addition to sliced beets or whole if tiny, my grandmother would grate the cooked beets and preserve them with this brine. This 'relish' was for the kids...she would add grated horseradish to some of it for the adults.
  9. Hi,I didn’t see self in this recipe? Is it okay to pickle these without salt? I’m getting ready to do this today and every other recipe I look at has salt in it. Thank you for this recipe.

  10. I grew up eating beets. My momma’s recipe calls for 1 Tbsp. pickling spices (with red pepper flakes). She used the cooked beet liquid instead of water in her recipe, so I do too. Think it adds more flavor.
    1. I've seen them made that way before too. I prefer not to use the cooking liquid because the liquid tends to be quite dirty from the beet skin residue left behind from the boiling process.
  11. Hi, I noticed that you said to avoid cutting with a knife. I'm assuming it's because of a reaction caused by coming into contact with the metal? If so, would it be okay to use a ceramic knife/peeler? As long as you don't mind them being stained, of course.
    1. Hi Stephanie, it wasn't about staining or metal reaction. It's about saving as much of the beet as possible. You don't need to use a knife to get the skin off the beet after boiling. Just hold the cooled beet in your hand and rub the skin lightly with your thumbs. The skin will come right off and you won't be cutting away actual beet by using a knife.
  12. Hello Byron! I just harvested the first of my beets and want to try your recipe but would like to add horseradish instead of the spices. Do you think that will be safe? I made them last year with horseradish and they were delish! but I can't seem to find the recipe I used then. Yours looks pretty great. What do you think? Thanks! Joan
    1. Hi Joan! There are no spices in my recipe, just the water, sugar, and vinegar. If you want to add horseradish, I think it would work very well, and you can even add some whole cloves and star anise as well. I just like my beets plain and simple, just like my dad used to make. :)
  13. About how many beets make 10 pounds ? I have 7 beets about the size of a ping pong ball do I need a lot more?
    1. Hi Betty, usually about 3 or 4 medium sized beets is one pound. A medium sized beet would be close to the size of a lemon.
    1. Hi Connie, that will depend on how you cut the beets and how tightly you pack the jars. From this recipe, I will usually get about 8-10 500 ml jars. But, I will often can 4 250 ml jars as well so that I have the option of opening a smaller jar.
      1. I may be missing something too. I filled 8 16oz jars with my 10 lbs of beets but there was not enough brine to fill to 1/2" from the top of the jar. Is this ok or should the jars be filled with brine to the top?
    2. i would like to suggest people buy a kitchen weigh scale. a lot of second hand stores carry them cheap if people cannot afford new.
  14. Dear Byron, Many thanks for sharing this recipe. I love my beets plain and would can them without pickling but of course that would require a pressure canner which I don't have. Therefore I searched for a recipe with the least pickling spices and thankfully I found yours with zero spices :) I have a silly question, if I may ... Can I use roasted beets instead of boiled? Thanks again for sharing!
    1. Thank you, Mercy. I have never tried canning roasted beets. I can't see why they wouldn't work, as long as they are warm and as long as the brine is hot. Of course, the texture will be quite different. If you do try it, let me know. :)
      1. i have baked beets. There is no difference in the taste if eaten before pickling. I dont know if you can pickle them or not.
  15. So we are big gardeners, big canners, and basically can all our own produce every year - peaches, plums, apple pie filling, cherries, pickles, tomatoes, etc. Just have to say this recipe is the best! These will be in our pantry and also be given at Christmas. So glad I have this recipe - I'm not crazy about cloves and pickling spices. These are perfect!
  16. Thank You so much for sharing this recipe. They are so delicious. I have made probably 60 jars for friends & relatives & coworkers. We can’t get enough. Easy & delicious. 😀👍
    1. That's a lot of beets, Rochelle! :) I can't get enough of them either. I pretty much use them as a side dish for every meal. I'll have to make more soon. :)
  17. Thank you for this great recipe, I did up 25 lbs of beets and they are fantastic. I haven't canned for many years and this recipe, canning process brought back a lot of good memories for me with my mom. My family can't wait to get into them
  18. I was so happy to find your recipe. My Mom canned these every year the same way. We lived over 500 miles away from her so getting a taste of her beets was a real treat.Now I am retired (and moved south where produce is more available), I have started canning. This year I am following your directions to do the hot water bath (my Mom didn't do this step) because I want them to last until I can use them up. A few years ago my beets either went whitish around the edges or became darker. they still tasted ok but some I threw out because I wasn't sure. Do you have any ideas what I did wrong?
    1. Thank you, Dona. When canning, be sure to use new vinegar. Vinegar is one of those things that can sit in the pantry for a very long time, and you can still consume it, but when canning, I will always buy fresh vinegar. The beets may have turned white because the vinegar will drain the colour from the beets. Did you use normal white vinegar? It sounds as though the pH level/acidity level in the vinegar was way off! In other cases, I've seen this happen when the sugar/vinegar ratio is off. You want to be sure there's enough sugar to counteract the acidity of the vinegar.
    1. I'm sure the thawing of the beets will change the consistency. Did you freeze them raw or were they cooked first? If they're already cooked, I would thaw them and can a few just to see how they taste. But, if they're not yet cooked, I would maybe try to save the beets for something else, like roasting!
  19. Hi, I'm just making up a batch of your beet recipe, and was wondering if it's on the vinegar taste side or sweet side. I don't like the real vinegar taste is why I am asking.
    1. Hmmmm, well Sandy, you might have prepared the batch of beets before I got the chance to respond. I find that the vinegar and sweet is balanced quite well, but I love the flavour of vinegar. :) Try the syrup mixture before adding it to the jars. If it's not sweet enough, you could always add a bit more sugar. Just be sure to dissolve the sugar completely before adding it to the beets.
  20. thank you, just finished making 5 large jars, this is the same recipe that my grandma, mom and all the aunts used... I do recommend that your wear cloves to remove the skin so that you do not stain your hands purple.

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