It all started when I lost my cinnamon sticks.
I wanted to pickle the beautiful red beets we had received in our CSA basket, and my recipe called for 1 whole cinnamon stick. I rummaged and ransacked, going through every nook and cranny, becoming increasingly agitated… but my pantry had suddenly become a No-Cinnamon Zone. Don’t you hate it when you’ve got your mind set on making something and an ingredient is missing? Not wanting to make a trip to the store for one measly piece of cinnamon, and secretly believing in my heart that they will still turn up, somewhere, someday, I found what I thought would be a suitable substitute: a large piece of star anise.
And you know what? I think I will never use cinnamon in this recipe again. The anise is absolutely perfect!
This is an easy recipe for anyone new to pickling. The hardest part is the long wait while the beets cook! If you give it a try, please let me know what you think of the addition of the star anise. Do you like it or would you prefer cinnamon?
Small-Batch Pickled Beets with Star Anise
3 pounds beets
½ cup sugar
2 cups vinegar
½ cup water
1 piece star anise
1 teaspoon whole allspice
6 whole cloves
Place beets in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. Remove pan from heat and immerse beets in cold water. Cool to room temperature, then peel. You should be able to slip the beet skins off with your fingers, but you may need to use a small knife for assistance. Slice beets into small (no larger than 2”) pieces.
Tie the spices into a small square of cheesecloth. Heat the sugar, water, vinegar, and spices in a large saucepan until the boiling point, then add beets. Boil 5 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth bag containing the spices and discard.
Pack hot beets and liquid into sterilized Mason jars. This recipe doesn’t have a large yield, so you will probably only require 5 half-pint jars or the equivalent. Seal and label. I didn’t process my jars in a boiling water canner as I would normally do, as I intend to eat them over the next few weeks. If you don’t process for storage, then ensure your jars go into the fridge once thoroughly cooled. Use them up within 1 month.