Monday, September 17, 2012

Just Beet It

Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious: Pickled Beets
These pickled beets are gorgeous -- and tasty. (Photo: Ian Knauer)

When I was a kid, we never ate beets. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, helping my grandfather with his garden, that it even entered my mind that they were edible. As we were finishing the day’s weeding he asked my if I liked beets, to which I had to respond that I had no idea. His eyes almost popped out of his head.

An hour later we were standing in my mother’s kitchen with four paper grocery bags that were overloaded with beets. We never ate beets at home because, as it turned out, my Mom hated them (she still does). She was cringing at the thought of having to cook them. My grandfather was beside himself, laughing.

It turns out, I love beets. I’ll take them any way they come, but that day, since we had so many and Mom wanted them out of her house, we pickled and canned them so she could send me off to college with a year’s supply and hopefully never see a beet inside her kitchen again.

Every year at this time I gather as many beets as I can and put them up in jars for the following year. I crack them open for a snack as a part of a cheese plate to serve in soups all winter long. And every time I get the chance. I teasingly offer them up to my mother. She politely declines.

Picked Beets
Adapted from: The Farm - Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food
Makes 6 pints
6 pounds beets
6 fresh dill sprigs
3 shallots, sliced
2 tablespoons pickling spices
11⁄2 cups distilled white vinegar
11⁄2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wrap the beets in three separate packages of aluminum foil and roast until they are easily pierced with a knife, 1 to 11⁄4 hours. Let the beets cool to warm, then peel and slice them and divide them among 6 sterilized pint canning jars, along with the dill, shallots, and pickling spices.

Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Pour the mixture over the beets, leaving 1⁄4 inch of space at the top of the jars.

Cap the jars and process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Let the jars cool at room temperature until they seal. They will keep for at least a year.