Monday, August 9, 2010
Beets: Roasted and Pickled
I adore beets. I love their humbleness, their long season in the garden, their taste and especially their garnet color. My absolutely favorite way to cook them is to roast them in the oven an hour plus until they are really done, cool, and then peel them. You can simply eat them at this point, or go one step furthur: In a pot on the stove top, melt 2-4 T. butter, add the same amount honey, then chopped or quartered beets and some salt to taste. Cook a bit until glazed looking and enjoy. They are so good! WARNING: Eating a decent amount of beets will turn your pee magenta-pink, so don't freak when you see it! As a young adult I didn't think to warn a friend who had never eaten beets before. She loved them, but for a day thought she had some dreadful disease.
My next favorite way to eat beets is pickled. I remember my mom, aunt and grandmother making pickled beets every summer and they were always served at family gatherings, celebrations and holiday meals. I forget every single year until I begin the harvest and preserving season and realize just how absolutely thrilled and happy I am while in the middle of the process of preserving.
I love canning, bottling or whatever you may call putting up produce in jars. It is such a life positive, productive activity and I feel so tied to all those who have gone before me by providing for their families in much the same way.
A pantry shelf with pickles, jams, fruits and such, was what added flavor and variety in the much more simple living of our great-grandparents' time. It provided some security against the wolf of winter if one had a few things put away in jars. It still livens up meals today for those raising their own foods -and those who don't. Even if you don't want to preserve on this scale, you might want to try making one pickle -and I recommend pickled beets. Really -its easy and you won't believe how much fun it is!
Wash 7 wide mouth pint jars.
Leave 2-3 inch tops on 18 or so beets (about 2 or so 3-inch beets per pint). The magenta-colored beets have the best flavor -the gold ones were a disappointment when pickled. Scrub beets well, put in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook 25 minutes. Reserve 3 c. beet cooking liquid, then drain and cover with cold water. Peel when able to handle beets comfortably.
Meanwhile, combine in a medium large pot to make pickle syrup:
3 c. beet cooking liquid
3 c. cider vinegar
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 T. pickling salt
3 T. pickling spice tied in a spice bag (cheesecloth -or a clean, old pantyhose leg works great!)
Bring syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and leave to cool, allowing spice bag to steep.
Peel and slice beets to fit into wide mouth pint jars -I quartered these. Pack into jars to within 3/4 - 1 inch of the rim. Remove spice bag from syrup and discard. Bring syrup to a boil. Put 7 new, wide mouth lids in a small pot and just cover with water. Heat but do not boil. One jar at a time, pour about 3/4 c. of syrup into each pint to cover beets and wipe rim with a clean, wet cloth. Using a fork, lift a lid from the hot water, immediately place on jar and screw on ring snugly. When all the jars are filled, place in a water bath cannier and fill with water to level just below the rings.
Don't despair if you don't have a water bath canner! You can use whatever you use to cook spaghetti in, or several pots that you can fit the jars in and in which the water level will reach up to the jar necks -you might have to do it in several batches, or reduce the recipe to only do as many jars as will fits in your pot. I think at this point you will probably realize how much fun preserving is and go out and buy yourself a water bath canner -but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Place several layers of aluminum foil under the jars to buffer the direct heat on them, which could potentially break a jar and ruin your whole experience.
Bring water bath to a boil, set timer and process for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully, remove jars from water bath, being careful to not burn yourself -there is an implement called a jar lifter for doing this. Now sit back and admire your labors, leaving the jars completely undisturbed for 24 hours. Children like to poke the lids. Husbands, too. Check seals and refrigerate any that aren't sealed properly. You can eat these right away. Label and store jarred pickled beets -and feel a bit more secure with the world.