Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tried and True - Pickled Beets

I was talking to a friend yesterday about eating more fruits and vegetables for better health - one of my favorite subjects.  He has been thinking and reading about this a lot lately and seems pretty committed to making some changes in his day to day eating habits  He was wondering how in the heck he was going to manage ELEVEN one half cup servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which is the amount recommended for a moderately active man over age 31.  See this link for some great info on how to think about adding more fruits and veggies to your diet.

For most people,  eating a lot of vegetables is even a bigger challenge in the winter.   One way to meet the challenge would be to sign up for a winter CSA share.  Another way would be to eat more pickled vegetables and relishes - like pickled beets.  They are a great side dish for almost any kind of meal.  I like to dice them and use them as a garnish for all kinds of salads or cooked greens.   I also like to use them to make salads, like herring salad.  (recipe below)

As I perused my cookbook collection to prepare for today's post, I noticed quite a bit of variation in pickled beet recipes.  Proportions of water, vinegar and sugar were different.  Types and amounts of spices were different.  Some recipes called for onions and some not.

I have been using this recipe for some time and find it quite satisfactory.  It is meant for a small batch of pickles to be stored in the refrigerator.  If you want to can a large amount of beet pickles for long shelf storage, then I suggest you follow a recipe from the Ball canning folks or other "official" source so you are sure the recipe is safe.

BEET PICKLES - Makes one quart
1 1/2 pounds beets (should yield about 3 cups, thickly sliced)
1 cup sliced white onion, loosely packed (If you don't want to include onion, just cook and slice an extra 1 cup of beets)
1 cup sugar (white or brown or mixed)
1 cup vinegar (cider or white or mixed)
1/2 cup water
1 T. mixed pickling spice (or 1 cinnamon stick, broken;  1/2 t. whole cloves, 1/2 t. whole allspice, 1 t. mustard seed)
Trim beets - leave one inch of stems.  Scrub well and boil (water should cover the beets) until beets are done.  (A sharp fork should meet little resistance).  Peel beets under cold running water - the peels and stems should slip off easily.
If you have small beets you can pickle them whole.  You can also quarter or chunk beets of any size or slice them.  I like to slice them thick so I can dice them later if I want to.
Place cut cup beets in a clean jar along with sliced onions if you are using them.
While beets are cooking, combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices in a sauce pan and simmer about 15 minutes.
Pour vinegar mixture over the beets/onions in the jar.  Press or insert a long thin spoon or chopstick to remove any air spaces or bubbles.  Cover jar.  When it has cooled, refrigerate.  Let sit a few days before eating.  These pickles will keep in the refrigerator for months.

Here are some pictures of the pickling process:

all you need: cooked beets, sliced onions, vinegar, sugar, water and spices

Heat the vinegar and water and sugar and spices - simmer about 15 minutes

It's a little tricky to pack the jar - after you add some liquid you can rearrange things a little so you can get everything inside

Beet salad, Scandinavian style
3 cups diced cooked beets (pickled or unpickled)
2 cups diced boiled new potatoes
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion or sliced shallots
1/3 cup chopped dill pickle
1 cup diced tart apple
3 T white wine or cider vinegar
3 T. oil
1 t. salt, ½ t. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped pickled herring or other pickled fish (optional)
1 T. chopped fresh parsley or dill- fresh dill is lovely if you have some
Dressing – make just before serving - often served on the side
1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche or plain yogurt
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T beet juice

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