It’s time to harvest beets and make sweet beet pickles! They are a pretty addition to an appetizer tray, are great in salads with blue cheese and walnuts or just for snacking. I use the 1967 Ball Blue Book recipe, modified slightly. My dad uses equal parts by volume sugar and vinegar which is a great recipe if you like them sweeter.
This year I grew ‘Early Wonder Tall Top’ variety from Carol Deppe Seeds. They were the best beets I have ever grown. All the seeds I got from her were fantastic which I have never said about a seed house before. Carol Deppe is growing in the Willamette Valley for the regional climate and has also written great gardening books.
Harvest the beets, shake off soil and trim tail to 2″ long. Cut off the leaves and save them for braising or soups. Rinse the beets outdoors and then boil them whole for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water and the skins will rub off easily.
Slice the beets or cut them into chunks. Small ones can be left whole. I like to cut them with a ridged cutter – it’s pretty.
Make brine (for every 3 quarts of prepared beets)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 T. pickling spice
1 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
Combine in a sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash your jars and have them standing ready in hot water. Simmer new lids for 5 minutes to sterilize and soften the rubber ring and let stand in hot water. Have your water bath canner ready with boiling water, with wire basket and your utensils at the ready. Obviously it helps to work on this with a few friends.
Pack beets into hot jars and cover with hot brine, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Screw band on finger-tip tight. Lower filled jars into water bath canner and process at a full boil for 30 minutes. If you have an outdoor burner to do this on so you don’t heat up your house, that is ideal. Do not burn yourself or others.
Remove gently from canning kettle and place on a towel. The jars will continue to form a vacuum as they cool and you will hear that lovely ping as they seal. Let them cool over night before moving them.
Admire, share with friends, store them away for winter and enjoy!