Amongst friends, I'm kind of known for a few food specialties: Molasses sugar cookies, any kind of pie and pickled beets. I've been reluctant to share the recipes for the cookies and the beets - the cookies because it's a recipe from my grandmother that was one of her favorites and the beets because they are good enough that even people who don't like beets have told me they like them. I've decided to share the beet recipe (with all of the 35 of you that are reading this blog...)
Standard pickled beet recipes use spices like cinnamon, cloves and/or allspice to enhance (or some would say 'mask') the beet taste that some people say resembles dirt. I love the earthy flavor of beets, but for some people it can be overpowering. I picked up this recipe from an ex-roommate in San Francisco that uses umeboshi which is itself a pickled fruit (usually called umeboshi plums, but they are actually related to apricots). I've used both versions of umeboshi for pickling beets - the paste or whole plums that you can get at most asian food markets, or the umeboshi vinegar that you can find in most health food stores. I'm not particularly fond of the cinnamon-y flavor of most pickled beets, but you can, if you want, add a stick of cinnamon and/or some whole allspice to one or several jars before you seal them up. But in general, these pickled beets are more savory than sweet.
If you haven't had pickled beets before, you might wonder what you actually do with them. I always tell people they can do the same things they would do with any pickle: put them on a sandwich, add them to a salad, eat them on their own. My favorite way of eating them is with a little chunk of multigrain bread (or a simple water craker), some extra sharp cheddar (Canadian or English) and a few slices of pickled beets.
This recipe uses rice vinegar. I only use
unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (which is clear), not seasoned or
Chinese rice vinegar (which is dark colored). Rice vinegar is only
4.2% acidity, which technically is not recommended for boiling water
bath canning (recommended 5% acidity). I do it anyway and I've never had a problem (I don't
dilute the vinegar with water as many recipes that use regular vinegar
suggest). But if you aren't comfortable with this, make a smaller
batch and just keep them in the refrigerator. They will last for
several weeks in the refrigerator.
1 dozen medium beetsBefore you start cooking, wash 8 half pint jars and new lids. Put the canning pot on to start heating.
1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1 small head garlic, minced (about 5-7 cloves)
1/2 c ume plum vinegar (or 1 tablespoon ume plum (mashed) and 1/2 c more rice vinegar)
2 t kosher salt
optional cinnamon sticks (1/2 for each half-pint jar) and whole allspice berries (can also use cloves)
Wash beets, peel and cut into bite sized slices (some people cook whole beets then peel them, I've had issues with beets cooking evenly that way, so I peel and cut before I steam them). Steam in a vegetable steamer or a pot with a steamer basket for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender but not mushy. While the beets are cooking, in a glass bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients including the cinnamon and allspice. Immediately after the beets are done cooking, add the hot beets to the vinegar mixture. Stir well. If you're going to can the beets, prepare jars for filling by sanitizing them in boiling water.
Fill each jar with beets, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom, then pour remaining vinegar solution evenly into each jar. Add 1/2 cinnamon stick and 1 or 2 nutmeg berries to each jar (or add to some and not to others) if you are using spices. Seal jars and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
Makes 7 half pints