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Seasons

Pickled beets

(Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe)
November 18, 2009

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Makes 2 quarts

Pickled beets are often too sweet (think Harvard beets, which are cloying) or too sour (19th-century New England cooking school teacher Fannie Farmer preserved hers with nothing more than distilled vinegar). The key to pickling beets is the right balance. Boil the brine in a stainless steel or ceramic-lined pot; avoid aluminum as it will cause off flavors. For long-term pantry storage, boiling water processing is necessary; visit the National Center for Home Food Processing at www.uga.edu/nchfp for more details. However, you can still make the beets without the rigmarole of the canning process; store them in the refrigerator; these beets will last up to 1 month on a fridge shelf. And while you may be tempted, wait at least a week for the flavors to marry. Then spoon them beside slices of cold roast turkey.

2 bunches beets, trimmed at both ends
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup bottled water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cinnamon stick, broken in half
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice berries
2 thin slices fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1. Have on hand two 1-quart canning jars or smaller jars that equal that amount. Rinse them with boiling water.

2. In a large pot, combine beets with cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Let them bubble gently for 1 hour or until tender. Replenish water as needed.

3. Drain the beets into a colander. Rinse under cold running water until cool enough to handle.

4. Working over a plate, remove and discard the skins from the beets. Cut the beets into 1/2-inch dice. Place beets in jars, leaving enough room for brine. Set the jars on a wooden board.

5. In a nonreactive pot, combine cider vinegar, water, brown and granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice berries, ginger, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugars. Remove from heat and ladle over beets while the liquid is still hot. Screw on the lids.

6. Cool jars to room temperature and store in refrigerator. Karoline Boehm Goodnick