Since the beginning of June I have been volunteering at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning. Having grown up among corn fields, dairy farms, and sprawling vegetable gardens in rural Pennsylvania I have an affinity for people who live close to the land. I’ve enjoying getting to know the farmers and when I buy my produce, it is nice to know whose labor I am supporting.
Every year my wife and I look forward to the arrival of fresh beets to the farmer’s market. We will typically make several batches of beet salad throughout the summer, but when the market closes at the end of the season we typically don’t buy beets again until the following summer. This year, I decided to pickle some to enjoy throughout the year. A couple weeks ago, I bought several bunches of beets from Bear Hill Farm, located in Tyngsboro, MA. The farm has been in the same family since 1917. The beets were handed to me directly by the man who grew them, and my money went directly into his hand. It doesn’t get much more simple and direct than that.
The recipe I used came from Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrick with one minor alteration–I halved the amount of sugar. Here was the process for those of you following along at home. It of course starts with the beets. After trimming off the greens (reserved for other use, beet greens are good braised) I scrubbed them down–about 7 pounds of beets all told.
We then boiled the beets for about 15 – 20 minutes, after which we plunged them into the sink filled with cold water.
We trimmed off the ends and removed the skins–I used a paring knife and scraped them while my wife and daughter found that the skins were pretty easy to rub off using a damp paper towel.
I used a mandolin to get a consistent 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness while slicing. The larger beets I first halved and then sliced. While prepping the beets, I also had the pickling solution simmering on the stove. Cider vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (I halved the amount in the original recipe) as well as cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and allspice berries tied in a cheesecloth pouch and steeped in the simmering liquid for 10 minutes.
While the liquid simmered we packed the sanitized pint Mason jars with the beets.
After the jars were packed we added the hot pickling liquid (after removing the spice pouch) leaving about 1/2 inch of head space.
We affixed the sanitized lids and rings and processed the jar in a boiling water-bath for 30 minutes.
The lids all sealed properly so I moved the jars to the basement. A week later we opened one to test them out–I am very happy with the results, and I am very glad we decided to halve the amount of sugar originally called for in the recipe. In future batches we may increase the amount of vinegar and reduce the water content to balance the sweet and sour flavors a bit more.
7 Pounds beets
2 Cinnamon sticks, broken
1 Tablespoon allspice berries
1 Teaspoon whole cloves
1 cup sugar (we used 1/2 cup)
1 cup brown sugar (we used 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons pickling salt or pure Kosher salt (non-iodized and free of any additives such as anti-clumping compounds)
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
Made about 7 Pints