Well, I don’ t know about where you are, but here it’s proving to be the perfect weekend to tuck in and get some things done around the house because, well, there’s really no other choice. In my humble opinion, a couple dozen inches of snow are a wonderful excuse to be a little lazy and perhaps a little bit productive too as your mood suits you throughout the day. Cups of tea and bowls of soup are also necessary amenities for snow days, and I’ve had plenty of both.
But while the rest of the city was running rabid to the store last night, desperately nabbing food to get them through the weekend of snow drifts, I was able to just walk down the steps to my basement and look over my shelves of preserved goodies that have been such a treat over this entire winter: pears, peaches, beans, jams, and pickled beets. That’s right…pickled beets. Ever had such a thing?
I suspect pickled beets are a culinary colloquialism, part of my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, but I could be wrong. All I really know is that I love them, though that wasn’t always the case. When I was a girl, my mom would make large batches of jars full of bright pink chunks of pickled beets, and it was my job to cart them down the narrow stairs to our root cellar to fill the cupboards there. I’m not sure if it was resentment for all the lugging or just the underdeveloped tastes of a kid, but pickled beets equaled “yuck!” in my young mind. Oddly enough, I don’t think we ever ate fresh beets, roasted or otherwise, when I was growing up.
Somewhere along the way, I got over my foolish hang-up about pickled beets and grew to appreciate them for what they are: a delicious sweet and savory treat that, when eaten in a snow storm, reminds me of the sunny autumn days when I plucked those very same beets out of the warm fragrant earth. In a few months, all this snow will have been melted away and it will be time to plant more beets again. They make a perfect spring crop to put in your garden as soon as you can get out there and start scratching out some rows. Be sure to buy plenty of seed so you’ll have enough for a second crop in the fall to make jars full of jewel-toned pickles of your own for next winter.
Begin by cleaning and trimming your fresh beets. Place in a heavy saucepan and cover with water. Boil until fork tender. Remove from heat and let cool enough to make handling them easy. Slip the skins off and chop the cooked beets into evenly sized wedges.
Sterilize pint jars and lids either in the dishwasher or in a boiling water bath on the stove. Let jars cool enough to handle and then pack them full of cooked beets.
In a saucepan on high heat, make a boiling syrup of:
2 C. sugar
2 C. water
1 C. vinegar
1 1/2 t. salt
Pour hot syrup over the beets in the jars until they are covered and there is about an 1/8 inch of “head space” left at the top. Seal tightly with lids. Place jars in a big kettle/pot and fill with enough water to cover the jars by a 1/2 inch. Place over high heat and process until the water has been at a boil for five minutes. Remove jars from water and allow to cool on a kitchen towel. Test the seal of each lid by pressing on it – if it gives at all, it hasn’t sealed and will need to be stored in the fridge. Label jars with date and store for up to a year.
(makes 6 pints)