Recipe: Spiced pickled beets by Muffy Vhay
This time of year, the garden becomes a veritable jungle, suffering both from my benign neglect in the weeding department and an abundance of growth due to our exceedingly hot summer. Everything is about ready to have something done with it, and some has gone way past its culinary usefulness. Just last week I gave a whole wheelbarrow full of overgrown summer squash to someone who has 50 chickens. They will love them!
There are peaches to can and freeze, and I need to get to them before the birds do, though metallic streamers (“flash tape”) help a lot. Lots of other garden products to deal with too: beans, broccoli, chard, tomatoes, corn, and much more. Carrots, potatoes, cabbage and parsley can stay in the garden at least until the voles and gophers find them.
Some of the early corn and beans are already in the freezer; the basil pesto is also done. But here come the tomatoes, and that is the big job. We have only 17 plants, and I know lots of folks have many more, but that’s enough for us to make juice, sauces, puree for soup, stewed whole tomatoes, and several condiments.
The recipe for today is one I don’t make every year, as it keeps better than some. Pickled beets are a family favorite — a great addition to party buffets, antipasto plates and holiday dinners. Since beets are also a favorite of the voles and gophers, it’s a race to see who gets them first. This year we won.
SPICED PICKLED BEETS
The original recipe came from a friend in Northern California in 1971. I’ve changed it quite a bit over the years. The current recipe is geared to my water-bath canner, which holds seven jars. So I try to make a batch that will fill the canner with pints and/or 12-ounce “jelly” jars. This recipe takes a while to do, but it’s worth it! You will need about 8-10 pounds of red beets from your garden or the farmers market.
Follow directions in a good canning book for jar preparation and boiling-water-bath canning. The Ball company makes a nice little booklet.
Wash well and trim the tops from beets, leaving 1 inch of the stem ends and the entire long root. (If you don’t leave root and 1 inch of the tops, lots of the color will bleed out.) Place beets in a pot large enough to cover them with water — boil until just barely soft. Drain, chill, and slip the skins. Quarter the larger beets and leave the very small ones whole.
While the beets are cooking, make the syrup:
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups white sugar
3 cups water
2 large onions, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Spice bag consisting of 1 heaping tablespoon whole cloves, 2 teaspoons whole allspice, 3 or 4 4-inch cinnamon sticks, broken in several pieces
Simmer the syrup for about 15 minutes and then add the prepared beets. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer another 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard spice bag.
Put the beets and syrup in prepared jars, seal with two piece lids, and process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.
Remove from canner, cool, check seal, and store in a cool, dark place. If you can, wait a couple of weeks to let the flavors develop before you open a jar!
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.