Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sweet Beets

These canned beauties are the precursor to some killer Harvard Beets - simply drain and thicken the brine with cornstarch, heat and serve. They're not super sweet, but of course that depends on the type of beets you're using. 

Sweet Pickled Beets

The women in my family love beets. In fact, over the years I've expanded the annual beet patch in my garden to include three varieties, always heirlooms and generally ones you don't even find at the farmer's market. They're a little crowded this year - I didn't thin them nearly enough at the beginning, and they share space with carrots - but pulling some of them now gives me flavourful veggies to enjoy all through the fall.

Unlike me, who appreciates these root veggies most when they're raw (or baked into something chocolate), my mom prefers them super slow-roasted and Grandma likes hers Harvard-style, in a sweet and sour, thick sauce. For the longest time, I thought I just didn't like beets, because they were always served in this fashion - kind of like how I never liked green beans or asparagus because they were always cooked to oblivion, and I still hate grilled food because it reminds me of eating charcoal for dinner as a kid (sorry Mom and Grandma). However, Grandma won't eat them readily unless they're in that form, so I figured I would at least make her a jar with my organic beets that was a bit better for her than the tin cans on the shelf.

Even though I have a pressure canner, there were no approved recipes for Harvard beets on the books. Most traditional recipes use cornstarch or a roux, both of which are no-nos in home canning, and apparently the "powers that be" haven't figured out a way that ClearJel can work in this application and not breed botulism. Instead, I did what a few of my cookbooks recommended and can the roasted, sliced beets in a sweet, lightly spiced brine which could then be thickened upon opening and serving. While it's not as "dump and serve" as I was hoping for, it's still much easier for Grandma to simmer up a cornstarch and brine slurry than it is to roast, peel, slice and pickle the beets herself!

Sweet Beets
Makes ~2 pints, 8 servings
1 ½ lbs beets, topped and scrubbed (I used thinnings from my mammoth red mangels, which are white inside and medium-sweet)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp dark honey (like buckwheat)
⅓ cup sugar
½ tbsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp coarse-cracked black peppercorns
¼ tsp turmeric

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Wrap beets in foil and place on a cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 50-60 minutes, until tender. Cool until you can handle them, then peel and cut into pieces (I used cylinder beets so I just cut slices).
  4. In a large pot, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add beets and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes.
  6. Ladle into pint jars (top off with more vinegar if needed) and seal.
  7. Can in a waterbath 30 minutes.
  8. Let sit at least 2 days before enjoying - these get better as they age!
Amount Per Serving *
Calories: 81.1
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 357.2 mg
Total Carbs: 20.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 1.4 g

*NI accounts for all the brine 

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