The secret ingredient which sets this Beetroot Pickle recipe apart in flavor and intensity is the cinnamon stick. All the flavors will develop in the jars over the next couple of weeks resulting in a very aromatic and tasty beetroot pickle. I pickled 4 large beetroot and finished up with two large jars of Pickled Beetroot. The quantity of pickling liquid was the perfect amount to fill the jars and cover the beetroot. The jars need to be wide mouthed to accommodate beetroot slices, if slices are what you prefer, over wedges. I promise you that after making Pickled Beetroot and tasting it, you will never want to eat commercially canned beetroot again. However, having said that, I always keep a couple of tins of beetroot in my pantry just in case, as an Aussie steak sandwich or hamburger just isn't the same without a layer of beetroot.
The Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is an amazingly versatile vegetable. It can be boiled, steamed, baked, grated fresh, pickled and eaten hot, cold or raw. As a shortcut for cooking, you can buy beetroots at the supermarkets already cooked in vacuum sealed packets. And how about the rich, red startling colour, it brings a pop of colour to any plate. Beets look and taste wonderful in many types of salads, both cooked and raw. The early Greeks only ate the leaves, which is a reminder to us modern cooks that the whole vegetable is edible. The story goes that the Ancient Romans considered the beetroot to have Aphrodisiac qualities.
It's a rewarding vegetable to grow in the home vegetable patch, as even if the beetroots don't grow that large, mine never do, the leaves can be picked frequently for salads while the beetroot is growing under the ground. Smaller beetroots are sweeter and less likely to be woody. A raw salad of beetroot is best made from the smaller ones, to savor the sweetness of them, and raw beetroots will naturally have more health benefits than cooked beetroots.
Beetroots are available all year round, but it's natural season is from Winter to late Spring. This is a reminder to me to think about planting some beetroots very soon. To buy it at its best, I like to buy it with the leaves still attached. The vitality of the leaves is the best indicator of the beetroot's freshness, and you are getting two vegetables for the price of one. The fresh leaves are edible, and even though the beetroot is loaded with essential nutrients, so are the leaves, even more so from being green and exposed to the sun. The fresher the leaves the better, and then if they are and if you have a lot of them, you can cook them as you would fresh silver beet. I love cooking silver beet in a hot pan with butter, freshly ground black pepper and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg.
I wrote a post about pickling beetroots 5 years ago. Here is an updated version of the recipe, with photos taken this week when I did some more pickling.
4 large beetroots, washed but not peeled.
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cracked pepper or peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mixed spices (can include 1/2 tsp. celery seed, 1/2 tsp. mustard seed)
2 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp salt
Preparing the beetroot for pickling:
Care needs to be taken when cleaning beetroot. Cut off the leaves a couple of centimetres above the root for later use, clean up any blemishes, and leave a small part of the stalk intact. Don't peel them or cut into them at this stage as the red juice will bleed into the water. A gentle wash will remove any residual dirt from the root, after all they are a root vegetable.
Cook in lightly salted water for 20 minutes. This depends on the size of the beetroot. Mine took close to an hour this time because they were large, which suits pickling. Don't be tempted to pierce the beetroot with a skewer to test if they are cooked as this can result in them bleeding as well. Instead, take a beetroot from the water and let it cool slightly in a colander, and then gently squeeze it. If it gives a little it is cooked.
Cool the beetroot and then remove the skin using a knife, but some of the skin will just rub off in your hand. My preference is to slip off the skins by rubbing them gently. Use gloves if you don't want pink hands at the end of this. Lemon juice will remove any pink stains on the hands depending on how many you have handled. I recommend that you use gloves.