At the request of one of my readers, here is a quick run down on Beets, starting with ones fresh from the garden or farmer’s market. It just so happens that I took pictures a few weeks ago as I canned some of ours, but like so many other things I put off writing about it. 🙂 You can also use store bought canned beets for pickling and I’ll give proportions and a recipe for that method along with the fresh, toward the bottom of this post. Beets are high in potassium and are a natural source of Iron, Magnesium and Vitamin C. Generally, people who like beets really, really like them and the ones that don’t, hate them with a passion. There never seems to be any in between. To me, they have a wonderful earthy flavor and I could eat them with every meal. They’re super for aiding digestion and stimulating the liver’s detoxification process. That said, … let’s see, how do I put this tactfully? If you eat a plateful every day for several days in a row, don’t be surprised if that lovely beet red color makes an appearance at the end of the digestion tract, if you get my drift. It can be quite alarming if you aren’t prepared for it. Ok, so now you know more than you ever wanted to about beets. Let’s get back to how to prepare them! The directions below come from The Ball Blue Book of Canning & Preserving and they cover everything you could possibly imagine in canning, freezing and dehydrating. You can purchase a copy through Amazon here: Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving, 37Th Edition I highly recommend having one on hand.
** PREPING FRESH BEETS TO COOK **
Trim greens from beets, leaving 1 or 2 inches of the stem. Leave tap root intact. Leaving some of the tops and all of the tap root helps minimalize the color that bleeds out while cooking them. Sort for size and place similar sizes in a large pot with enough water to generously cover them. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 20-30 minutes (depending on their size) When beets are fork tender, remove pot from heat and let the whole thing cool. When beets are cool enough to handle, trim the tops and tap roots off and slip the skins off with your fingers. Cut into slices if desired and pack into hot sterilized quart jars. Wide mouth jars are most always my preference. Use the beet water that you boiled them in to fill the jars leaving 1 inch headspace. *You may want to dip the beet water with a ladle instead of pouring it, just in case there’s some residual dirt that has settled to the bottom of the pot. Any beet water that’s left over makes a great addition to the compost pile and chickens love it too. Trimmings of the greens can be fed to the animals or saved and prepared like spinach. They can also be blanched and frozen or canned as you would any other greens.
Once you have your jars filled, be sure to wipe the tops so there is no debris and you’ll get a good seal.
Sterilize your two piece canning lids in a hot water bath.
Adjust lids so they are finger tight and process in a pressure canner for 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. There are a lot of recommendations nowadays that say never to process these in a water bath canner because it doesn’t get hot enough to kill botulism bacteria. I use a pressure canner now, but we always used the water bath canner when I was growing up. I guess we were lucky. I purchased our pressure canner from our local hardware store, but you can also get them online, and they are cheaper than what we paid. Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker There are two sizes, 16 quart and 23 quart. We went with a 23 quart and are very happy with it.
Once the processing is finished, leave the canner to cool and depressurize on it’s own. If you try to let off some of the steam to hurry it up, you run the risk of warping your lids or bursting a jar.
*** Pickled Beets – also known as Spiced Beets ***
2 cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon whole Allspice
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Salt
2 sticks Cinnamon
3 and 1/2 cups Vinegar
1 and 1/2 cups Water (or beet juice if you’ve just cooked your beets)
3 quarts cooked, small beets
Combine all ingredients except beets in a medium size pot. Simmer for 15 minutes. While liquid is simmering, pack beets into hot jars, leaving 1 inch head space. Remove cinnamon from simmered liquid and pour mixture over beets, again leaving 1 inch head space. Adjust sterilized caps on jars and process 30 minutes in a boiling water canner.
*** Making 1 Quart at a time ***
This recipe was adapted by my Mother to make one quart at a time (for the refrigerator). This one is great because if you don’t have fresh beets, you can use (2) 15 ounce cans of store bought beets. They can be sliced or whole, whichever is your preference.
3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoon whole Allspice
3/4 cup Vinegar
1/2 cup water (or preferably, beet juice from the canned beets)
1 Quart cooked Beets or (2) 15 ounce store bought cans
3/4 stick Cinnamon
Bring liquids, sugar and spices to a boil. Add beets. Boil 5 minutes and jar. Keep in the refrigerator and use within the month. If you let it sit in the jar in the refrigerator at least a day before eating, they are even better!
For everything you’ll need to start canning, you can bundle these through Amazon and often they qualify for free shipping that way if you are an Amazon Prime member.