The following is a guest post written by my favorite aunt – Aunt Sharon. Enjoy! – Aaron
This recipe was my Grandmother Larson’s, and was handed down to me by my mother. We used to make these pickles together on the farm my husband and I now live on in southwestern Minnesota. I thought these were fun to make, and is a cherished memory of something I shared with my mom who turned ninety this past June 4th.
Sterilize your canning jars the night before which can be done in a dishwasher. If you are not using new jars, make certain there are no chips in the rims of the jars as this will prevent your jars from sealing properly. Also it is important to buy new lids for the jars. You can reuse the bands, but never reuse the lids. It is also good to use the deep pots with lids on for cooking the beets because you will be cooking them whole with some of the stem and the root on. You do this to prevent possible bleeding of the beet which will cause the color to drain out of the beet as it cooks. It is also important to take a hose to wash off any excess dirt that might be attached after you dig them. I use a kitchen scissors to cut the green top off, leaving about two inches of the stem top still attached before I cook them.
I usually leave about a good three inches from the water level to the lid to allow for boiling room. It is also important to move the lid off to the side to prevent boiling over once your beets have reached the boiling stage. You can either bring your water to a boil first or put the beets in the water and then bring them to a boil—either way works. I use a cake test or a sharp knife to test the beets to check the tenderness of them as they cook. It is very important to make sure the beets are tender before you remove them from the pot. No one wants to bite into a beet that is still hard—they should be tender—almost like a potato. Remove the beets from your pot, and put them in your sink where you can peel, slice, and pack them in your jars. I often use a special slicer which makes ridges in the sides of the beet as I cut and pack them in the jars. This is totally optional. If you find a beet that seems hard after cooking, it is probable that you may have a woody one. This sometimes happens as they grow, and is inevitable. Just discard it.
Bands and Lids
I have the amount I need in a small pot of water which I heat so that it is also simmering. I use a tongs to retrieve them as needed after the syrup has been poured over the beets, and the air bubbles removed with the cake tester. This is an important step which will also ensure that your lids will seal and be sterile. I use a cake tester to make certain I get all air bubbles out before I put the sterilized lid and rim on. I think this helps the jars seal better as it is eliminating all excess air that may have built up as the syrup gets poured over the beets.
- 2 cups white vinegar 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 cups sugar 12 whole cloves
- 1 cup water 2 bay leaves
Put the dry ingredients in a piece of cheesecloth and tie using a twist tie. Drop into the liquid mixture, bring to a simmer, and simmer for ten minutes. Fill your jar so that the liquid will be a little past the neck of the jar.
One batch of syrup makes enough for seven pint jars. You will hear the lids pop as they seal. I also mark the date on the top of the lids for future reference. The shelf life should be a good two years.