How to Make Pickled Beets

I'd like to thank my parents for introducing this recipe to me way back when I was a kid. It's both laughably cheap and easy to make. And because of the rich beet coloring, a glass jar filled with pickled beets looks quite visually stunning.

These babies will keep for up to a month in your fridge. And best of all, they are an instrumental first step in making pickled eggs, so save that bright purple liquid! We'll return to the subject in an upcoming post.
Pickled Beets

1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

(Optional: you can also add in 6-8 whole cloves and a 1-2 whole sticks of cinnamon to get that "my grandmother made this" look.)

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2-3 cups cooked and drained beets (about 5-6 medium-sized beets, either sliced or cut into smallish wedges--see below on instructions for cooking beets). Return to boiling and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Cool in refrigerator, then put beets and liquid into a glass jar or a sealable plastic container.

Best if served after a minimum of 48 hours of steeping in the pickling liquid.

A couple of additional notes:

On how to cook beets:
First cut off the stems/greens about one inch above the beet itself.

Rinse them off well, then cover with water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for roughly 50 minutes. The way you tell if a beet is done is the same way you tell if a boiled potato is done--just stick a fork in it and if the fork goes in pretty easily, it's done. Very high-tech.

Then, drain the cooked beets and refill the pan partway with cold water. Use your bare hands to quickly pull off the outer skins of the beets. They'll come off quite easily when fully cooked. Run cold water onto the beets as you're peeling them and you won't burn your hands.

You can either cut the beets into wedges (my preference) or slice them up. Sliced beets have a more typical look to them, but I've always felt they were harder to eat that way.

On the containers:
You can store pickled beets in either glass or Tupperware-type plastic, although I prefer glass. There's always a chance, depending on the plastic, that the deliciously purple beet color can stain your plastic irrevocably. Note also that it's a bad idea to leave the pickled beets in a saucepan or other metal container, as vinegar can corrode the metal and the metal can impart a metallic taste to whatever you're pickling.

If you want to get that "my grandmother made this" look, I encourage you to use traditional 1 quart mason jars (you can buy them by the dozen at Wal-Mart for cheap). But in our casual kitchen we just use carefully washed out jars of pasta sauce. They work just as well and they're free.

On modifications:
The pickling liquid can of course be modified to fit your tastes. I like the taste of the above recipe, which is a version I've modified myself from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but I'm considering reducing the sugar content by 25% or so and adding even more vinegar. You can also substitute brown sugar if you prefer to use unrefined sweeteners. If you're a newcomer to this blog, be sure to take a moment to read my series on how to modify a recipe.

Finally, for God's sake don't wear anything white while you're making this dish!!!

Coming up next: pickled eggs

Related Posts:
How to Modify a Recipe Part 1: Basics
How to Modify a Recipe Part 2: The Six Rules
How to Modify a Recipe Part 3: Granola Before and After

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Anonymous said...

That reminds me of pickled eggs I had recently at a local diner. But they weren't pickled with pickled beat juice, but rather with a juice of halopeno (sp?) peppers, onions and a couple other things. Quite spicy, and good.

That then makes me think that you could pickle eggs with many different ingredients, which would be an interesting experiment.

(Yes, I like to play with my food.)

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am over the KEN's post. I love this post, CK. Let's face it: the beet is the perfect vegetable. It is hearty and filling with a meat-like consistency that pleases the carnivore and vegetarian alike; it can be stored for weeks in your garage; it can grow just as easily in your garden or on the Siberian Steppe; it is one of the world's largest sources of natural sugar (important for you wall street types who are looking for cheap alternatives to corn of the high fructose syrup variety....); it is a natural food coloring; it is beautiful in color, versatile in presentation and great tasting. It is very good for you. There is really only one problem with beets - they intimindate people. They are underserved and peole don't know what to do with them. Your post is a great step. When I log off, I am going to buy a bunch of beets and make smome borsch, grab a jar of pickled herring and chill a bottle of vodka.

Paka, Tavarishi

Amy said...

Thanks! I've used this recipe several times for beets from CSA. I'm going to try reducing the sugar as you suggest, but I do love these beets as they are!

Karin said...

Next time you make this you NEED to add a few good shakes of crushed red pepper -- so delicious!