Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Refrigerator Beet Pickles

I know that for those of us here in the Midwest, our major time for canning and preserving garden produce is quickly passing (we had our first killing frost in parts of Minnesota last night), but before the season completely ends I wanted to post a couple of good recipes for pickling that I enjoyed using this year.

First, here is my beet pickle recipe, which is actually a combination of the recipe that my mother used for years and the recipe that one of my dear friends shared from her family's recipe collection. I merged the two recipes because both were specific in some areas and vague in others. And then I decided not to can them, but to make them as refrigerator beet pickles, because I knew that we would use them quickly at our house.

Finally, I just wanted to add how much we love beet pickles. For my husband, I think they remind him of his paternal grandmother, who was a traditional South Dakota farm wife and would sometimes send packages of pickled foods as a gift to her children and their families. For me, I remember my mother's beet pickles. She would make enormous containers of them and store them in the refrigerator. When she died, my very thoughtful sister remembered how much I loved Mom's beet pickles so she made a batch using Mom's recipe for my birthday that year.

4 cups 4% acidity white vinegar (or 3 cups 5% acidity white vinegar plus 1 cup water)
4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp. allspice
6 whole cloves
6 lbs. beets (preferably small, whole beets)

Combine vinegar and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Combine the cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in a small cloth bag (e.g., cheesecloth or muslin). Add the bag of spices to the vinegar mixture and simmer for 15 minutes. Then cool slightly while you're cooking your beets.

In the meantime, wash your beets but don't take off the skins or cut off the roots or tops yet. Instead, boil the whole beets in a large pot of water for 25 minutes or until the beets are tender to your taste. (Since you won't be heat processing them for canning, I found that they needed more than 25 minutes to get them to the right amount of tenderness.)

When your beets are ready, drain them and cool them enough to touch; then trim off their ends and slip off their skins. If they aren't small enough to use whole, cut them into nice-sized chunks. Place the beets into prepared glass jars with lids. (To prepare the jars and lids, boil them first for sterility.) Add enough liquid over the beets to cover them with 1/2-inch left at the top of the jars. Cover the jars lightly, putting them in the refrigerator when they're cool enough. Tighten the seals when they're cool and let the beets marinate for a couple of weeks. After that, they're ready to eat.

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