Pickled Beets

February 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm 31 comments

Pickled Beets

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. 

Pickled Beets

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? 

Beets boiled and peeled

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. 

Pickled Beets

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.  

Jars of Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

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)


Entry filed under: Preserves, Recipes. Tags: , , , .

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31 Comments Add your own

  • 1. FoodFitnessFreshair  |  February 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I love that you can your own food. This is such a wonderful process that reaps wonderful rewards. Can’t say I’m a fan of pickled beets, although I do love some roasted beets! Our beets tend to store for months in the fridge, it’s crazy! And this was definitely one of those lazy snow weekends for me…which I feel is quite okay, haha.

    • 2. Jennie  |  February 7, 2010 at 11:44 am

      Thanks, FFFA!! I love to hear that you’re keeping fresh beets in your fridge all winter. Isn’t it amazing how long they last? Pickled beets aren’t for everyone, but they are a good way to keep the beet stash going without having to take up fridge space. Roasting is still my favorite preparation for beets though.

    • 3. clay  |  October 16, 2011 at 12:08 am

      how long should you let your pickled beets set before you open your first jar? please advise:) thank you
      Portland Oregon

  • 4. Ecochic  |  February 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Mmm pickled beets. Now that’s a part of my Ukrainian heritage.

    Quick question, I’m sure my Baba or Mom has covered this at some point, but I forget. Say I make an excessive amount of soup. And pour said soup into sterilized jars, and the heat from the soup seals the jars, is said soup ok to keep out of the fridge because the jars are sealed? (Press top is down).


    Also: Are old pasta sauce jars, and storebought jam jars, alright to can in? If so, then my hoarding will do me really well!

    • 5. Jennie  |  February 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      Ecochic – I haven’t canned “complete” soup, though I do freeze it. My mom cans the “starter mix” for vegetable beef stew though (all the veg, broth and seasonings, but no meat until you actually open the jar to serve it) so I’ll base my answer off of that. I would say you need to still boil the jars in a hot water bath to ensure any bacteria in the soup have been killed. As I recall, my mom kept hers in the hot water bath for a good while (10 minutes maybe). I’ll refer to my canning books and see if I can find some more info. Maybe my mom will comment too. 😉

      Also, my mom used old jam jars to preserve our homemade jam, and I’ve done that a few times myself with my own jams. The high sugar content tends to keep them stable as long as you’re not going to try to keep them for a year. However, it’s not recommended “by the book” as the seal is not nearly as reliable as canning jars with new lids. As for old pasta sauce jars, I’d say not to use them for canning. However, I use mine to store things like homemade pancake mix and cookie mixes (all the dry ingredients in the recipe). Saves time when you want to make breakfast or a sweet treat in a hurry. And it justifies your hoarding! 😉

      By the way, a friend of mine has a great canning blog you should visit for more tips and ideas: http://www.foodinjars.com/

    • 6. Williegee  |  January 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      No state or federal agency or canning professionals would ever recommend to can in old pasta, peanut butter jars.

  • 7. Matt  |  February 10, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I had pickled beets for the first time at Thanksgiving this year, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. “Flavor” isn’t the first word association that I would have come up with when I heard “pickled beets” prior to my tasting them, but I am thoroughly impressed. I think it’s great that you can your own stuff. I am going to try canning for the first time in the fall and am excited/nervous for the results.

    • 8. Jennie  |  February 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Hey Matt, so glad you liked your first taste of pickled beets! Hopefully you’ll give making them yourself a try when you take on the joys of canning this fall. Any questions on canning once you get started, feel free to come back and ask. Also, as I mentioned in my reply to Ecochic, check out the Food in Jars blog. 🙂

  • 9. fallenangel65  |  February 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    You have hit on something that is one of my fondest childhood food memories and I have no idea why. I think because normally we only had them around holidays so they tie into to that whole family/warmth/celebration vibe.

    • 10. Jennie  |  February 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

      How is it that we share so many food memories? It’s lovely though as it makes me feel like I’m on track. 🙂

  • 11. foodtale  |  February 12, 2010 at 4:54 am

    In my country we use to have pickled fruits like mango and onion. but this is absolutely another take on pickle fruits. it’s looks really nice.

  • 12. The Cookie Girl  |  February 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

    First….I love the photo! The beautiful red beets just jump out at you. 🙂
    I can’t say that I have ever had roasted beets either. I do have memories of my Mom canning pickled beets and her hands being all pink from it. She still does this every Summer. We enjoy them in salads.
    I love canning and preserving foods. There is something so soothing about it. Kepping my husband out of the jams and jellies (especially blackberry) is a very hard thing for me to do. I have to hide it or it will be gone before Winter even sets in. LOL
    Love you post. It makes me long for canning season now.

  • 13. Grandma's Girl  |  February 13, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Thank you so much for this memory and recipe. My fondest memories of visiting my grandparent’s farm in Montana is eating my Grandma’s pickled beets. I don’t get them often enough now and this recipe looks so close to what I remember of Grandma’s. I can hardly wait to try it!

  • 14. klmoreau  |  February 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I’m originally from Western Pa, and my grandma used to make pickled beets every summer. I never did grow fond of the beet taste – believe me I still try, so I let everyone else finish the beets, and then use all the leftover juice to make picked eggs!

    All you have to do is hard-boil them, drop them in the jar of beet juice, and let them sit for a day or so (longer is better). The are so sweet and purple and tasty!

    My 86 year old grandmother still made beets with us this past fall! She douses her pickled eggs with a ton of salt. Me? I just grab one out of the jar and take a big bite!

    • 15. Jennie  |  February 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm

      That’s exactly what my family does too!! 🙂 Funny thing is though, I love the beets but don’t like the eggs. I shoud send you my leftover brine when I finish a jar. 😉 Thanks for leaving the comment as I thought adding the tidbit about the pickled eggs might be a bit much for folks still unfamiliar with pickled beets. Now I know I’m not the only one that knows about pink pickled eggs. Though I don’t like eating them, I do love how the yellow of the yolk contrasts wit the pink/purple of the “white”. Good stuff!

  • 16. Peggy Lovve  |  February 16, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    The pickled beet story brings back many fond memories for me. My memories are of a wee, small girl who would follow me around in the garden while playing with our many “garden cats”. The kitty cats lived in the dairy barn located across the road from the garden, and they were always on the look-out for the wee girl. Their company made the time go faster while I picked the beets. Then, it was off to the old wash house where the small girl and I would wash the beets and cook them in a very heavy, old kettle. We often used the old 5 leg table that set in the corner of the wash house to put the dishpans on while we slipped the skins off the cooked beets. While the work was going on, there were stories to tell and counting games to play that helped to make the work less boring. Finally, the beets were cooked, cut and ready for canning. My canning records show that I usually canned 25 to 35 pints of beets each year, but one year I canned 45 pints. And yes, the wee girl usually had to make many trips up and down the cellar steps in the old, farm house to store all those jars in the canning
    cupboards.The memories I have are wonderful. Love you Jennie.

    • 17. Jennie  |  February 16, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      Aw, thanks, Mom! Funny though, I could have sworn we used to can at least 500 pints each summer…. 😉 At least it sure felt like it! Seriously though, very good memories! Wouldn’t trade them for the world.

  • 18. Carole-Lynn Maclean  |  August 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

    How long must beets sit after pickling before they are ready to eat

    • 19. Debbie Wagner  |  August 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      I have the same question. I just pickled some on Saturday but don’t know when they would be best to eat.

      • 20. Jennie  |  August 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm

        Hi Carole and Debbie –

        You can eat the pickled beets right away. I do think they develope a deeper flavor with time, but they’re quite tastey right after canning. 🙂

        • 21. Jan  |  August 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

          Thank you jennie

  • 22. Magaluf Hotels  |  August 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Once again you have inspired me! I made these for the family today and they complimented how nice they were I gave the credit to you of course lol keep these reipes coming!


  • 23. Connie Garton  |  August 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Planted our beets late. Removed them from the garden today. They are not soft. Am wondering if they are ok to boil and make into pickled beets? You know how cucumbers can get strong and bitter from the heat, can anything like this happen to the beets? They seem very firm. Connie

  • 24. Jan  |  August 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

    How many days after the pickled beets are made should i let them set?

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  • 27. Linda Cordes  |  July 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Reason I read this site was it asked question how soon after I make pickled beets can I eat them. No where on the pages did it answered that question

    • 28. Linda Cordes  |  July 6, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      I found one answer that answered that question. I thought the site itself would address that. Thank u Jennie for answering that question

  • 29. Mary Lowson  |  August 8, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Mary E.
    I heated the juice, heated the jars and they appeared to seal, two days later they popped, (about 8 jars) I placed them in the fridge right away. Are they still safe to eat?

  • 30. Lynn  |  November 8, 2014 at 2:52 am

    In answer to #28. Usually the jars pop within a few hours. I would say your beets are still safe to eat, but keeping them in the fridge is a good idea, just in case.
    So glad to hear that there are still those that love pickled beets out there. Our 10 year old daughter loves them. My family pickled 96 pints in 2012 and another 43 last weekend! It’s one of those things that you either love them or hate them. We enjoy sharing them with those who have long been waiting for pickling time again! Seems to bring back a lot of memories of older generations. We are still finishing off the last few of the remaining 2012 batch, and they are just as delicious.

  • 31. Debra S. Walling  |  December 28, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Can’t get enough beets, look forward to canning according to your direction. They look and sound delightful.


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