Ask Chef Boy Ari
Q: Dear Chef Boy,
I've got the beet blues. I planted a big load of beets this year—a mixed bag with red, gold and other—and now, what to do with all these beets? I've gotten some advice on steaming little beet cubes to be used in salads and veggie medleys, or for my 8-month-old to eat. I've also seen something on grilling, then peeling, but what else is there?
A: Dear BM,
I was going to suggest pickled beets. They taste great and will store all winter long unless, of course, they are eaten. Remember, pickling involves lots of hot water and can really heat up a kitchen. So I suggest pickling early in the morning, or late at night, when you can open the windows and let in the cool air.
Clean the beets, leaving the taproot and two inches of stem and boil. When tender, drain the beets and let them cool. When they’re cool enough to touch, slip the skins off. Cut off the taproots.
Cut beets into the shape you want, perhaps slices, or quarters for medium-sized beets. Small beets can be left whole. Or cut them into cubes, rhombic dodecahedrons, frolicking mermaids, whatever.
If you've never pickled before, buy some canning jars and lids and read the directions that come with them. That information will help you follow my directions.
Before you pack your beets, add a teaspoon of salt to each pint (or two teaspoons per quart). Then pack beets into clean, sterile jars, making sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of "head space" between the top of the beets and the rim of the jar.
In a pot, mix a brine of equal parts water and cider vinegar, with one cup of sugar for every 3 cups of brine. (You can use more or less sugar, as you wish.) Heat this until it just starts to boil, then remove from heat.
You may wish to add pickling spices, or a mixture of equal parts allspice, cloves and cinnamon—the so-called "pickled beet spices." Like sugar, these spices are up to your own taste. But remember, you want a pretty potent brine here, to counteract the potency of the beets.
Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Wait at least eight weeks before opening.
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