Pickled Think: Beets

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: A Year of Food Life, I’ve been resolved to try to eat more locally and even grow our own vegetables. A few years ago Cokebaby and I moved from condo living into a house where we have since been growing an urban container garden.

This year we had a decent summer crop of spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, and cucumbers. We also have an indoor windowsill herb garden that I’m in charge of and failing at miserably. Somehow, remembering to feed, walk, groom, and play with the dog every day is easier to me than remembering to water a bunch of dirt once or twice a week.

Photo credit: redfox from Flickr

Photo credit: redfox from Flickr

Anyway, now as the weather starts to cool down it’s pickling and canning season. Last year saw my first attempt at pickling anything and it was done with great trepidation and fear that I’d be killing us off through botulism. I made what was essentially this recipe for Swedish Pickled Beets but without the pepper. The result was brilliant.

One of the “trade” secrets behind making the job of peeling the beets easier is to boil them whole and then cover them in cold water once they’re cooked. This makes the job of peeling them as simple as popping the skins right off.

The great thing about beets is that they’re actually quite versatile and come in a variety of shades from the standard deep burgundy to candy cane to golden. Not only do they make an excellent side to roast meats and fishcakes, but they’re also fabulous on salads (my fave includes goat cheese and mandarin orange slices).

Recently, I purchased a new recipe book called Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today to go along with a case of large new mason jars. Out of one afternoon the pantry is already stocked with pickled beets and a red root relish (with beets, cabbage, sweet red pepper, and onion) to keep us going for the year.

Now that I’m more comfortable with the process and have a book to refer to, I’m going to try out some other recipes like jams and preserves. Have you tried pickling and canning before? If so, what was the result? Any tips or fave recipes? If not, what’s stopping you?


Author Reading – Soren Bondrup-Nielsen

First night in Milwaukee September 2009