Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Beet goes on.

I don't know when your tastes change, but you don't grow up liking beets. Their rustic, dirt-like flavors just don't go over so well when you're, like, ten. I can't put my finger on it but there is just a day when you start enjoying beets, and once you do, you never look back.  I've got to have them canned, pickled, roasted and raw; in salads and soups, or just simply roasted and sprinkled with blue cheese and hazelnuts. The super-nutritious baby greens from the beets are perfect in salads or sauteed in your favorite stir fry - who knew! Another great thing about beets is they last forever; up to three weeks in your fridge. (I'm sure I've kept them even longer than that.)

When we started growing beets five years ago, I couldn't believe how easy it was. Just space the seeds so they have room to grow and watch the magic happen. Since then, we've experimented with golden beets and the striped Chioggia beets. So far, the standard "bull's red" beets have prevailed in our garden. Anytime you grow your own, you need to stock up on different ways to prepare them. The list goes on for beet recipes, but if you want to preserve your beets and have year-round, here's a delicious recipe from friends in Eastern Oregon. Lucky for us, they were willing to share:


30 pounds of Beets results about 35 pints of canned pickled-beets. Beets of about 3-5 inches in diameter.

Recipe for Vinegar Mix (1 Batch)
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

The above will do about 8 pints

Clean all jars and boil jar lids. Cut the tops, leaving two inches above the beet. Do not cut the roots because it limits bleeding; scrub them with a brush in cold water. Cover beets with water and boil and cook 2-3 inch beets for 20 minutes. Cook 4-5 inch beets 30 minutes. Try to sort sizes in each batch. Cooked beets will allow you to rub skin off with some easy effort. Take them out with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water for easy handling. Once cooled, remove the peels and cut off the top and the bottom roots and wash beets in water before dicing. Prepare vinegar mix by adding the spices and liquids in a pot and bring it to a boil while stirring. After it begins to boil, let it cool as you work on other steps. The beets will be packed cold  so the vinegar mix should not be boiling hot. Warm is fine. Dice the beets into about 1/2-inch cubes and fill the pint jars within a half inch of the top.  Fill each jar with vinegar mix to cover beets leaving a 1/2-inch heads pace. Wipe rims, place lids and screw on rings, tight but not over tight. Put jars into the water bath canner covering the top of the jars by a half inch and bring to a boil for 30 minutes for pints. Remove and let cool. Once cool, you may want to remove rings to rinse in hot, soapy water so it's easier to remove at a later date. Store in a cool storage area.

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