Jan 30 2013

Adventures in Canning: Pickled Beets

I didn’t reveal this in my previous post on beet brownies, but the reason I had a a few extra beets – the perfect quantity for those brownies – was because I’d over-purchased beets for my pickling project.

I was drawn to this pickled beet recipe out of hope for its future versatility. I’m frequently seeking a component for a lunch sandwich, craving a more creative afternoon snack, or searching for a way to liven up a handful of simple salad greens. These beets, once they’re sufficiently pickled, seem as if they’ll willingly play all three roles.

Two pickle projects down, I still enjoy the process of jamming more than pickling (though you won’t hear me lament about the brevity of pickling versus jamming!). In making jams or jellies, the results are immediate and tangible. In the middle of a jam recipe, I can tell if the jam needs extra pectin to help it set or if the flavor is off and I need to add something to the pot to make the end result more pleasing. And at the end of turning fruit into jam, I can immediately enjoy the rewards by reserving a cup-full for in-the-moment consumption.

Pickles are different. With pickles, I can control the quality of the ingredient and the brine recipe, but I feel helpless in controlling the interaction between the two. After eating a few jars, I still feel ambiguous about my pickled asparagus. I am pleased with how the asparagus look in their slender Weck Jars, and I’ve enjoyed the taste in an aloof way. But, I don’t crave them in the way I crave, say, a jar of Mama Lil’s. The brine isn’t as nuanced and the asparagus isn’t as snappy. I’m not presuming that my first pickling experiment would have yielded results like Mama Lil’s, only that I wish I had more control in the moment of how the pickled vegetable would taste!

It seems like pickling will be a life-long experiment: I’ll try a recipe, take notes, and modify it for the following year, seeking that magic combination.

Pickled Beets

Recipe Adapted from Farm to Fork

Makes 2 pints

Both these beet pickles and the pickled asparagus are considered vinegar pickles or “quick pickles” because they rely on a vinegar brine to provide the acidity to preserve them properly.


  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp pickling salt
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 medium beets (2 lbs), roasted, peeled, and quartered


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the beets in a medium saucepan, and heat to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook for 3 minutes, or until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  2. Divide the beets evenly between two sterilized pint jars. Ladle the hot brine into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a damp towel, and attach the lids and rings. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the jars and set them in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Allow 3 weeks before opening. (Any jars that do not seal properly should be promptly refrigerated and the beets consumed within 1 month.)