By request, 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 minimize 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. At this stage you have exactly the equivalent to what you can buy in cans at the store. Well, maybe not exactly, you know where yours came from, how old they are, and what they were or were not sprayed with. Important information in my book. 🙂
From here there are a couple of different ways to preserve your beets; Plain or Pickled (spiced)
To can them “Plain”
Cut your freshly cooked beets into slices or cubes and pack into hot sterilized quart jars. Wide mouth jars are almost 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 goes into containers in the freezer for making beet pickled eggs with onions. If you’re not into saving it, it also makes a great addition to the compost pile and chickens will drink it up like it’s the best thing they’ve ever had. Trimmings of the greens can be prepared as a side dish like spinach or blanched and frozen or canned as you would any other greens. Livestock love them too.
Once you have your jars filled, be sure to wipe the tops so there is no debris and you’ll get a good seal.
Place the lids and rings on the jars and adjust the rings so they are finger tight. Since plain beets are not acidic and have no acid added (ie vinegar) these should be processed in a pressure canner for 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. When I was growing up we did plain beets in a water bath canner but now I use a pressure canner. The danger of botulism poisoning is real and a water bath canner doesn’t get hot enough to kill any botulism spores that may be present. It’s just not worth the risk. You can pick up a pressure canner at your local hardware store, or you can find them online. Mine is a Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker. There are two sizes, 16 quart and 23 quart. We went with a 23 quart pictured below and are very happy with it.
Recently we also purchased an “All American” brand that does not use a rubber gasket in the lid. From a “prepper” standpoint, it seems like a good investment in the event replacement gaskets are not available… because you know as soon as you can’t get one, the gasket is going to get a split in it somehow or the other, lol. The one without a gasket is this one: All American 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker Canner. The cost is pretty significant though.
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.
To can them “Pickled”:
If you want to do them pickled, use the same cooking process as above, cut them into slices if desired and pack into hot sterilized quart jars with sterilized lids. Then use the recipe below to prepare the liquid you will pour into the jars:
*** 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. Start your time as soon as the water in the canner reaches a full, rolling boil. *note that this process uses a boiling water canner instead of the pressure canner used for the plain beets. A boiling water canner can be used now because of the vinegar in the recipe. A boiling water canner is one like this and are also sometimes called a water bath canner: Granite Ware Covered Preserving Canner with Rack, 12-Quart You can also use any regular pot that has a lid, as long as it is deep enough to hold enough water to cover the jars. An easy trick to make a rack for the jars to sit on in the bottom is to arrange small mouth size canning rings, right side up, in the bottom of the pot. It works as good as any store bought rack. 🙂
“Pickling” Beets that were put up “Plain”
You can also put up all of your beets plain and then pickle them individually one jar at a time as you open them. This is my preferred way of doing them because it’s so easy and I don’t have to estimate how many we will use of each when putting them up initially:
*** 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 and you’ll never guess these weren’t pickled from the start!
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.