I’ve been nursing my last pint of home canned pickled beets for a couple months. It’s commonplace for me to eat half a jar when I get a craving but I’ve shown incredible self-restraint in case I needed a half cup of tiny diced beets for a special homemade salad dressing recipe. How would that dressing taste without those tangy tidbits and slightly pink tinge color? Not very good so I’ve practiced safe pickled beet denial.
Pickled beets were my second attempt into the world of canning 35 years ago. I wanted to can them because mom and I loved them. It was soon after we moved to Michigan in 1987. My neighbor Diane asked me to help her can Bread & Butter pickles (they’re out of this world delicious) and it wasn’t long before I questioned if I could pickle a beet better than store bought ones? (which are quite bland).
No one on my side of the family canned but my MIL was a great canner when she was raising (the Hub’s and his sibs) so I asked her. (Little Johnny Wayne used to sneak down the basement when his mom was gone and eat a whole jar of her canned sweet cherries, then got rid of the evidence. Did he throw away the jars?) Sure Mag had canned pickled beets many times. She grabbed an envelope that was on the table and scribbled the recipe down from memory. I mentioned my pickled beet intentions to my SIL a couple hours later as she glanced at the recipe. “No this isn’t quite right,” she began. “Close but let me check the amounts and I’m sure there’s a missing ingredient.”
I was now armed with the right recipe but waiting to find some beets which Diane ordered for me at her ‘go to’ farm market. Beets are root vegetables which are harvested in late fall. I bought some jars and picked up my beets. They’re messy to work with, spewing a colorful shade of maroon over countertops, walls and hands, plus they don’t smell the best until they’re swimming in syrup. And it takes awhile to get them to that point. You have to boil them whole until they’re fork tender, drain, cool and ‘slip the skins.’ (I love that phrase), then dice or slice in the delicious, tangy syrup (almost makes your eyes water! Hubs always finds something to do in the garage when it pickled beet canning day, but I love the smell!) is heating up.
During my Parish Visiting days, pickled beets were one of the favorite foods I brought to folks who still lived in their own homes. Think this beet obsession might be age related. Not one of my kids or grands will eat them (when our kids were little and I asked them to pass the beets, they’d snap their fingers, clap and make weird noises in their mouth, succumbing to fits of giggles. Every. Single. Night) but most older folks relished getting a jar. Many wrote notes specifically thanking me for the beets. And the clever ways they used to repurpose the pickled syrup after every last diced nugget had been consumed. Most common was cooking hard boiled eggs, removing the shell and plunking the eggs in the leftover syrup. Waiting a couple weeks (for the eggs to get all pickly. The eggs turn into an incredible color). From that day forward whenever I made beets, I canned and saved the extra syrup and would bring folks a quart so they could pickle eggs. Such wonderful memories.
Since I’ve been going through beet withdrawal this summer I’ve been impatient for this year’s crop. Messaged the farm stand for their availability. Finally got a note my beets would be in only to have her tell me they didn’t get them and it would be another week. A couple days later I noticed their Facebook page advertising Northern Spys (my favorite pie apple). Waited to hear my beets were finally in so I hustled over to buy both.
Shannon was interested in making some pies together (her kitchen is huge and she has 3 ovens) so I made a quadruple batch of 10” double pie crusts, (ha, we ended up making more crusts) lugged a half bushel of Spys to her house. When we were a family of 5 and could snarf a pie after supper I always made a 9” pie. Now we’re down to 2, Shannon’s house is down to 3 and none of us needs a big pie. Or pie period but we love them. We each wanted one 9” for company but then made the rest into 6, 7 & 8” pans. Just big enough for a couple slices. The small (pot pie size) will go to Landon when we attend his basketball games this winter. (He’s the only one who runs off the calories during one practice)!
The pickled beets are in my canning cupboard and pies are in the freezer. I have a half bushel of Spys to can into applesauce this week but what we got accomplished since Friday feels good. Although I never could dance, I’ve still got the beet…