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.
To get six 250ml mason jars, you will need:
- 10 pounds beets (try to purchase smaller beets; they cook faster and have a better taste)
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
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!
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 boiling water. Allow the jars to sit in the boiling water, fully submerged, for at least 5 minutes. Avoid contact with the inside of the jar when removing it from the pot or when filling it with the cooked beets. 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.