(Updated July 6, 2020)
Pickled red beets are a childhood favorite of mine. Ever since I can remember, they’ve had a prominent place on the relish platter whenever our family gathered! My mother will still happily put up whatever amount of beets come her way, knowing that her kids & grandkids will devour them. Last autumn around this time, I got the somewhat concerned mother’s call that my father had come home from the local produce auction with a pick-up truck filled with beets. I headed right over…because beets were special…and for some crazy reason, I really like peeling them and I knew it would be worth a day of steady work.
When dealing with such a large volume of beets, we had to prep the jars in stages. We gathered all the lids, prepared our large water bath canner, and ran our clean canning jars through the steam cycle of the dishwasher to warm them up while prepping the beets.
My father was in charge of the outside work, His usual system was to hose them off well, then cook them in the turkey fryer. After the beets were sufficiently cooked (easily stuck with a fork) he lifted out the basket and dumped them into a very large metal bowl and would bring them in for me to peel. Before starting the next batch, my Mother would retrieve some of the beet juice for the pickling brine using her 4th Burner Pot. It’s the perfect pot for this because its silicone handles make it easy to carry, and it has measurement markings inside the pot. She never wanted to waste those nutrients and that bright hue.
Since my mother likes to use smaller beets (small enough to be quartered or halved) for her relish trays, I’d set those lovely little specimens aside so we could process them together as to keep track of them. The larger beets got halved or quartered with an effort to keep some consistency in size.
Our family recipe is as basic as it gets for pickling. Some folks like to add some extras…and they’re good too! You might want to consider bundling some of your favorite pickling friendly spices like cinnamon & whole cloves or caraway seeds black peppercorns into a cheesecloth spice bag. Allow spices to infuse into the brine during cooking, but remove the bag before adding the beets.
The amount of brine you’ll need will depend on the size of your beets – more specifically, the amount of space in the jar that isn’t occupied by the beets.
Remove canner lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the jars from the canner using a jar lifter, setting them on a towel-lined counter. Let them set until completely cool. Remove rings and store in a cool place.