My friend, Jan, is an amazing and inspiring lady. It doesn’t matter what I want to do in my kitchen, she has already done it. She is the one who taught us to make bread and all about grain mills twenty five years ago. Whenever I call her, she is doing something exciting in her kitchen. Whenever I visit her, there is always something yummy to eat. Her coffee cakes are the best. Last week I called her about something, and she was making pickled beets. Our family loves pickled beets. I have pretty regular access to beets, and yet, somehow I always forget to put them up unless someone reminds me.
Making Pickled Beets
It just so happens that our son, Jospeh, started working at a new farm on Monday. Guess what they sent home with him at the end of day? Several bunches of fresh beets.
Red and Golden
Some of them were the dark red variety. Some of them were golden. Dark red beets are, of corse, dark red, inside and out. Golden beets are a pale red, maybe even pink on the outside, but are a lovely yellow on the inside. It is very surprising the first time you cut one open. I have had golden beets before, but I have never pickled them, so this was a first for me.
Prepare The Beets
Wednesday morning I called Jan again and asked for her pickled beets recipe. Wednesday evening I trimmed the greens, put the beets in a large stock pot, covered them with water and boiled them. Stock pots are pretty common fare at our house, but a dutch oven or a pasta pan will work as well. Just as long as your pan is big enough to hold enough water to cover the beets by a couple of inches you are good. Think boiling potatoes. I left them in the pan, in the water over night
Peel And Slice Them
Thursday, after morning chores, I recruited two helpers to peel and slice the beets for me. Beets are very easy to peel. Simply cut the end off each side of the beet, and the rest of the skin just slips off. A quick rinse and then they are ready to slice or chunk for canning. RuthAnn said she likes sliced beets better than chunked beets so we are making sliced pickled beets.
The Jars And Lids
I haven’t done any canning in the past couple of years, so this entailed going to the basement and digging them out from under the stairs. I chose wide mouth pints. They are easier to fill while preparing, and easier to empty out when serving.
Prepare your jars.
Check each jar for cracks or rough spots and make sure the rim is completely smooth. The rim must be smooth or the lid will not seal properly. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water and then sterilize them. The best way to do this is to boil them in a big pot of water. You want to start them in cold water, though and bring jars and water to a boil together. This helps prevent cracked jars. Some dishwashers have a sterilize cycle. This will also suffice.
Boil your lids.
Put the jar lids in a shallow pan, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave the lids in the hot water.
Make The Brine
Brine is a sweetened vinegar / water mixture that has pickling spices in it. Mix everything all together in a pan and bring it to a boil. It smells really good and wafts through the house. After it boils dump your bowl of lovely sliced or chunked beets into the brine. Bring it to a boil again. Now it’s time to fill the jars.
Fill The Jars
Jar lifters are invaluable at this stage. They are like giant scissors with grips that lift jars. Buy a good one and it will last forever. Get one jar out of the pot using the jar lifter. Leave the rest of the jars in the hot water until you are ready to fill them. Put the hot, empty jar on a towel on the counter top. A wide mouth funnel is helpful here as it allows you to fill the jar without getting the rim sticky. Fill the jar, packing in the beets tightly. Cover the beets in the jar with the brine. Slide a knife down the inside edges of the jar to release any air bubbles.
Seal The Jars
Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of any stickiness from the beets or brine. Put a lid on the jar and secure it with a band. If you have done all of this in a continuous process and everything is still hot, you don’t need to water bath them. The heat will seal the jars. However, If you would like to water bath them, process them for 30 minutes.
That’s it. It was super easy and fun. I was able to spend the day with some of my younger ones as they helped me at different stages of the project. We got ten pints, five of the golden and five of the dark red. It might have been a little less if we had packed the beets tighter. I plan on doing this again as I don’t think ten pints will be enough to last us for fall and winter. Please note that anything you pickle needs to sit for at least a week or two after it is sealed so that the produce can absorb the brine. So don’t open them yet. Save them for fall.
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