I don’t remember liking beetroot as a kid. But I do remember the long Australian summers and my mama pickling beets. Some years they came from the local green grocer. Some years they came from our garden. I remember those years the best. Digging in the warm brown soil with my mama, and her mama too. Then the kitchen filling with the sharp scent of vinegar as Mum pickled the beets, purple running everywhere.
Nowadays I am a huge beetroot fan. I’ll eat them raw in a salad, roasted sweet in the oven, in a relish on my burger. I grow them in my winter garden (although the chickens beat me to them this year- no pun intended) and I bottle them in my sunshine filled kitchen. And it feels a little special to use my mama’s recipe.
- 2kg beetroot
- 3 cups vinegar of your choosing (I like to use 2 cups of white vinegar and 1 cup of malt)
- 2 cups water (use the water you cook the beets in for extra flavour)
- 2 cups sugar of your choosing (I like to use raw castor sugar. My mum used regular white)
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
Optional: 2 tablespoons pickling spice of your choice. Play with the spices each time until you find a combination you love. Try mustard seed, allspice or cumin seed. Or leave it out altogether. My mama always made hers without the additional spices.
- Wash your beets and put into a large saucepan of lightly salted water. My mum liked to add a little brown sugar to the water as well. Boil until just tender. You should be able to pierce them easily with a fork but stop before they go mushy.
- While the beetroot is cooking, wash and dry your jars and lids. Personally, I like to use the 500ml glass jars I my mayonnaise in 😉 Put your jars into a hot oven.
- Measure out the rest of the ingredients and mix together in a small saucepan. Don’t forget to add the 2 cups of cooking water once the beetroot is ready. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer while you prepare the beetroot.
- When the beetroot is done, remove them from the water and allow to cool just enough that you can handle them. Rub the skins off. If your beetroot are hot, the skins should rub off easily with your fingers. Chop off the tops and any bruised or mushy bits.
- Slice or dice your beetroot and fill your jars. Leave 2cm headspace. I like to do a couple of jars diced for using in salads, and a couple of jars sliced for sandwiches and burgers. Fill the jars with enough of the pickling liquid to cover all of the beetroot.
- Screw on the jar lids, flip upside down and leave overnight. In the morning check that your lids have sealed.
- Now do your best to leave the jars alone in the cupboard for at least a fortnight before you open them. It won’t hurt to eat them before this but it will help to develop the flavour. Mum always filled her beetroot container and it went straight into the fridge to be eaten without delay.
- Store your jars in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened keep refrigerated.
You may have noticed that we didn’t waterbath this time round. That’s because the hot liquid in the hot jar helps to create the seal. The vinegar and sugar are doing the preserving. Vinegar creates a highly acidic environment that prevents bacteria from growing. This is the way pickling is done traditionally and is known as open kettle, bottling, or overflow method. It’s the way I grew up with, and not just for pickles but for jams and sauces too. Now I hear tell that this method is frowned upon in the States, where the current guidelines have have labelled open kettle a no-no. If open kettle isn’t a method you are comfortable with, by all means go ahead and waterbath your pickled beetroot 🙂