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.
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.