Growing up, it seemed like there was always a supply of canned goods in the basement. I can’t remember my mother actually DOING the canning, maybe my grandmother did them… who knows?
Anyway, I remember liking the pickled beets as a kid. I don’t think I was completely nuts about them – something that definitely changed as an adult! Now, my husband and I can’t get enough of them – especially in our favorite salad (Salad greens, sliced pear, pickled beets, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and Green Goddess dressing – yum!).
When I started up with the pickling, it didn’t take long to get into the beets. Hell, it may have been my first pickle this year – oh, the mess that 1 month can make of my memory!
Anyway, when I looked up to get a basic idea of what people DO when canning beets, I noticed that most recipes used cloves and cinnamon, or pickling spice. I’m not a fan of commonly used/available pickling spice, and would gladly remove the clove and cinnamon flavors from pickled beets… so, I did. I created my own pickling spice recipe for this, which I LOVE. Hands down, these are the best pickled beets that either of us has ever had!
A few notes about pickling:
1. The amount of brine / jars you’re going to need will vary widely depend on the size of your beet slices, the size of jar you use, and how well you pack them into the jar. Have a lot of extra vinegar on hand, and either make more brine than you think you’ll need, or be prepared to make more as you go. As a rough idea, I’ve found it takes about 3 lbs of beets per quart jar – your mileage may vary!
2. Pickling salt is usually available with the canning supplies in any grocery store. You’ll want to use this, rather than regular table salt – the anti-caking additives in table salt can make your pickle brine go murky and ugly.
3. While you can use previously-used jars for canning (when WELL washed and sterilized!), you need new lids for each new batch. Safety first!
Homemade Pickled Beets
15 lbs fresh, firm beets – scrubbed well.
8 cups vinegar
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp pickling salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp each: ground cloves, ground ginger, hot pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each: allspice, black pepper, mustard powder
1 tsp each: celery seed, coriander
Clean, sterilized canning jars & rings
New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
LARGE pot to process them in
Jar lifter (nice to have, not necessary if you can handle pain!)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove stalks/leaves from washed beets, add beet roots to the pot of boiling water. Boil for 30-45 minutes, or until fork tender. Submerse beets in very cold water, allow to cool enough to handle easily.
Remove the skin from the beets: you can use a vegetable peeler if you want, I prefer to sort of rub the skins off – they come off easily.
Fill your LARGE pot with at least 6″ of water, put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine. In another large pot (not the canning pot!), combine all brine ingredients. Stir well and bring to a boil.
While the brine comes to a boil, slice your beets. I like to aim for a little thicker than 1/4″ thick, cut into half circles. If the beet is too big for a half circle to fit into a jar opening well, I’ll cut them into quarter circles.
Once brine comes to a boil, add beet slices and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
Once beets have cooked, use a slotted spoon and canning funnel transfer beet slices to sterilized jars. Shake the jars as you go, letting the beets settle in tightly – you want these to be packed! Once jars are filled with beets, use a clean ladle and the canning funnel to pour brine into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space.
Wipe off the top edges of the jar with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT! Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process for 30 minutes. CAREFULLY remove them, allow to cool overnight.
The next morning, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal. Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks.
Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.
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