Pickled Beets

I know that pickling is all the rage in the real food movement.  And, it should be, because eating pickled things can be pretty delicious.  One food I don’t get excited about whether pickled, roasted, or any other way I’ve tried to like them is beets.  However, my mom enjoys a pickled beet.  She also enjoys a pickled herring.  I think the people of Norway must need to have needed to preserve food all through the winter and pickling became a way of life for them.  Apparently, that taste passed its way down through the generations and my mom achieved it, but it’s either skipping a generation or my taste around beets and pickled beets has not been acquired yet.

This summer at the farmer’s market I saw some beets the same weekend I was planning to do some canning, and I knew that it was meant to be.  I picked up 3 or 4 beets and decided it was time to make some pickled beets for my mom’s birthday.  Now that we’ve celebrated the birthday, I can post this and not ruin the surprise (are you reading this, mom?).  I used one of my three favorite canning cookbooks to put this together: Canning for a New Generation.  The big reason that I like these cookbooks is that they generally make small batches of food, so it works out in terms of not having tons of cans to eat throughout the year.

Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

3 lbs beets, tops removed, scrubbed
4 c cider vinegar
1/4 c mild honey
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole allspice
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

Cook the beets in boiling water to cover until tender, 20 to 30 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Rub off the skins, trim, quarter, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Set aside.

Prepare for water-bath canning: Wash the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, and put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.

In a wide pan, combine the vinegar, 1 1/2 c water, honey, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately add the beets; bring just to a simmer.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars, carefully pouring the water back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.  Drain the water off the jar lids.

Working quickly, using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the hot beets (and some of the spices) to the hot jars.  Ladle or pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top of each jar.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar.  Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 minutes to process.  Remove and do not disturb for 12 hours.

After 1 hour, check that the jars have sealed by pressing down on the center of the jar; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.

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