Beets are traditional vegetables that are found throughout much of North America. These brightly colored root crops are easy to grow in home gardens. Fresh beets are also available seasonally in local farmer's markets or organic food stores.
Known for their color, flavor, and nutritional value, they are a favorite dish at mealtime. After pickling, they can be served cold with no special preparation, making them an extremely versatile meal choice.
Beets are one of the few garden vegetables that are easy to store. They can be refrigerated or stored in a cool root cellar prior to use. Beets can be cooked fresh, blanched and frozen, or pickled and canned for long term storage.
The pickling process includes cooking, peeling and chopping fresh beets, and immersing them in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices. Pickled beets can be served fresh or canned for later use.
Pickled beet recipes vary by local tradition, availability of ingredients, and personal preference. Simple beet pickling mixes consist of vinegar and sugar. To enhance the flavor of beets, cooks often include one or several spices or other flavorings.
To pickle beets, they must first be cooked. Start by washing fresh beets thoroughly and boiling them until they soften. Cooking times vary, depending on the size and condition of beets as well as the amount of crispness that is desired. Beets of similar sizes should be cooked together whenever possible, otherwise the firmness of cooked beets will be inconsistent.
After cooking, the beets should be peeled and rinsed. At this point, beets should be sliced, quartered, or left whole if small. The next step is to combine and simmer the pickling mixture. Most recipes call for about 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup sugar per pint of beets. Add the cooked beets to the pickle and continue simmering for 5-10 minutes. If the beets are to be served fresh or frozen for later use, at this point they need only be drained and chilled.
If pickled beets are to be canned, canning jars, lids and canning equipment may be required. Most home canning setups include specific instructions for canning vegetables. Home canning information is also available from a wide range of cookbooks, government agencies, and other sources.
Pickled beets are usually served chilled. Their brilliant deep purple color and tangy-sweet flavor goes well with poultry, lean pork, fish or other meats. Pickled beets are also delicious in summer salads or as a garnish.