May 22, 2013

Savory Spice Pickled Beets


Ingredients:
3 lbs peeled, cooked beets
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seed
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons tellicherry peppercorns
6 whole cloves
6 whole star anise
1 teaspoon white coriander seeds
1 teaspoon canning salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups beet cooking water
1 onion, sliced thinly (about 3/4 cup)


Directions:

Slice the beets into 1/4 inch slices if large or leave whole.

Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Prep your jars. Pack the beets into the warm jars and ladle the pickling solution over them. Leave a 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath for 30 minutes.

Yield: about 3 pints



Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.




My thoughts:
Whenever I eat beets I think of Ellen Tebbits pulling that weed in the sidewalk and ending up with a beet. I know it is a somewhat unorthodox choice but Beverly Cleary books are my all time favorite bits of food writing. Who can forget the cracking of the raw egg over Ramona's head at lunch or the eating of tongue disguised as steak when Ramona's dad was out of work? Or Ramona eating just one bite out of all the apples because the first bite was always the best? Ellen Tebbits just wanted to bring that beet to show-and-tell. So many writers forget to include the everydayness of food but Beverly Cleary never did.

I don't think I had ever even had a beet when first I read Ellen Tebbits but it made such an impression. I do love beets now so if I dug up a giant beet, I'd be quite pleased and possibly pickle it. I've made savory beet pickles before and they were very, very good. This time I tweaked the flavors a bit and used some red wine vinegar, which I had found in the proper concentration and in large bottles over the winter and stored so I tried that out. I also decided to use the beet cooking water instead of just plain water.


I wasn't planning to make pickles this week but I needed some pickled beets for a recipe I was developing and when I went to the store, I saw that fresh beets were only 89 cents a pound! It is a bit early for local beets but there they were. So I thought I'd just pickle them myself versus buying a jar. More work but a bit cheaper and a lot more tasty. They came out wonderfully and now wish I had bought more beets.

I know most pickled beets are a sweet and sour affair but I found I really like them when treated as just straight, savory pickles. The beets are sweet enough on their own, I don't think they need extra sugar.

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