Put ’Em Up! (Storey Publishing, 2010) offers your grandma’s traditional home-canning methods with a modern twist. Flavors are brighter, batch sizes are more flexible and up-to-date methods make the process safer and easier. An extensive techniques section allows you to think outside the box and learn a variety of food preservation methods such as freezing, drying and pickling. Create time-honored traditions such as apple butter to inventive new favorites such as figs in honey syrup or fennel confit. Even beginners who’ve never canned before can easily pick up preserving skills from this vibrant guide to canning. Try this Pickled Beets Recipe with Dill, an unexpectedly delicious flavor pairing, in this excerpt from the section “Beets.”
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Is there any vegetable more polarizing than beets? Whenever I use them in a cooking demonstration, they elicit the most powerful responses. “Oh, I adore beets” and “I can’t stand the sight of those things” pretty much divide the crowd down the middle, at least at the start. I credit a lot of that disdain to salad-bar beets — those curious, mushy, industrially processed things have given these rustic roots a bad name.
Fresh beets are another animal entirely. I grate them fresh into salads, roast them and layer them with goat cheese, or whir them into borscht. And, of course, I pickle them. No matter how you prepare them, the earthy, sweet flavor of fresh, locally grown beets wins over many a skeptic. And their colors are stunning. Red, gold, candy-cane striped, they’re all great. You can use any variety in these recipes.
Fresh Storage Recommendations
Beets are perfect candidates for your cool root cellar. Fill pest-proof but breathable containers, such as buckets covered with thick-wire mesh, with damp sand and bury the beets — what a treasure hunt! Or you can refrigerate them in a covered bowl or wrapped in a plastic bag to retain moisture — they will keep this way for a week or two.
Pickled Beets Recipe with Dill
Makes about 3 pints
Beets and dill are a classic combination. Serve these lovelies with a dollop of sour cream along with potato pancakes. Perfect!
2 pounds beets
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup fresh dill weed
1 tablespoon dill seed
1. Prep the beets by boiling or roasting them until nearly tender (see “Prepping Beets”). Cut them in half and then into 1/4-inch slices.
2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, and then remove from the heat.
3. Pack the beets into three clean, hot pint jars, arranging them snugly but with enough room for brine to circulate. Divide the fresh dill and dill seed among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets to cover by 1/2 inch. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.
Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
You can either boil or roast your beets to prep them for canning. Both are quite easy but take a bit of unattended time to get the dense roots nice and tender. They are so scrumptious and useful that you might consider cooking up a few extra while you’re at it — put them in a covered container in the fridge and slice into a salad or serve sprinkled with some sharp cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Whether you are boiling or roasting, wash beets thoroughly. Cut the greens down to an inch or two from the root, but don’t throw the leaves away. Sauté the greens with a little garlic and olive oil or use them in place of mild-flavored sautéing greens such as Swiss chard or spinach in any recipe.
To boil beets, place them in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a low boil and cook until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the beets. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
To roast beets, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the roots individually in foil and arrange in a single layer on baking sheets. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven, open the foil, and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Whichever cooking method you use, skins will slip off cooked beets easily. Pinch the beets with a little pressure and pull the skins away. Use a small paring knife to cut away any stubborn bits or damaged spots. Red beets will stain everything they touch, including your hands, so wear gloves, or the pink finger badge of a beet lover will be yours for the day.
Pickled Beets Recipe with Dill excerpted from Put ’Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling © by Sherri Brooks Vinton, used with permission from Storey Publishing, 2010. Buy this book from our store: Put ’Em Up!.
Also, check out Sherri’s new book, Put ‘Em Up! Fruit, available from Storey Publishing in April 2012.