How to Pickle and Can Beets

Updated on May 12, 2018
Justin P Richards profile image

Justin has been cooking for years and hosted a cooking podcast called Kinds of Cooking. I love baking bread and cooking just about anything.

I am not sure what you think about beets—maybe you love them, or maybe you hate them. If you have made it to this article though, I would like to think that you are more on the love side.

As for me, I love pickled beets. Beets other ways are fine, just not something I go crazy over. What I really love about beets is that you no matter what way your are consuming the beet, you can use the entire plant in front of you.

A couple years ago, I grew cauliflower (stay with me). As the plant got bigger and bigger, I noticed how awesome the leaves look. It also made me consider that I had never seen these leaves (also called "green") still attached at the store or even sold separately. I did a little bit of research and found out that cauliflower greens are edible, and after eating them, was presently surprised by how good they were! The only reason I cared was because I put a lot of work into growing about eight cauliflowers—perhaps more work that just the cauliflower deserved. Now that I was able to eat the greens as well, it made the effort much more worth while!

So now we get back to beets. Beets are the same way. They have these lovely dark green and purple greens. I had never eaten them before, but I sensed that like cauliflower I was going to discover that they were not only edible, but delicious—and it was true! Whenever I cook with beets, I always save the greens. They go good on sandwiches, a morning smoothy (they are slightly sweet!) or steamed.

So it's great to know that the beet is good, the greens are good, and lastly, the trimmings you get off of the beet are great for compost! So once you've finished with this pickling process you should have little to no waste!

Now let's get on with process! I'll give you a short version first, and then go into a more in-depth step-by-step explanation.

You can eat the beet's leaves, so save them!

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour 20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour 50 min
Yields: 2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 6 Large Beets, Peeled and Sliced
  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 TBS Garlic, Minced

Instructions

  1. Trim the beets by cutting off the bottom of the root and all but the top 1/2 inch of the greens. Cook on medium high heat for 25 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
  2. While beets are cooling bring other ingredients to a hard boil for about 3-5 minutes.
  3. While the brine is heating up and after the beets are cool enough to handle, peel either by slipping skin off or gently using a vegetable peeler. Slice beets.
  4. Add beets evenly to two prepared one quart mason jars. Pour boiling brine over beets until covered and seal.
  5. If you are immediately putting these in the fridge, you are done. If you are canning, bring pot of water to a boil and add jars to the water. Boil for at least 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 24 hours before storing.

The In-Depth Version

Step One: Getting Started

Take about 6 large beets, cut the greens off leaving about 1/2 inch on top then flip them over and cut off the bottom root. Bring a large pot of water to a slow boil (medium high heat at most) and put the trimmed beets in. You'll want to cook these for about 25 minutes.

So, I have made many batches of pickled beets and used different recipes. First off, I don't like the beets made with actual pickling spice. It takes over the flavor of the beets. Second, I don't like adding sugar to my brine - beets are already sweet. Lastly, I like a crunchier beet, not a softer beet.

The reason I mention those things is that I have made the beets with pickling spice and eaten them. I have made the beets with sugar and eaten them ... the only time I EVER threw out my beets was when they were over cooked and soft. It was the worst.

So I have seen many people say boil for 40 minutes or keep on a high boil. I guess that fine, but 25 minutes on medium high, soft boil, is what I like. One of the goals is that you can simply pull the skins off of the beets when they are done cooking. I have done them where they come out like that and are not over cooked, but I would prefer to be safe and gently use a vegetable peeler rather than over cook the beets.

Once the beets have cooled enough to handle, peel off the skins and prepare for the next step.

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This recipe makes about 2 quarts of pickled beets so wash and sanitize your jars! If you plan on canning this recipe, sanitation is the key to healthy and delicious food storage.

While your beets are cooling, take a medium sauce pan and bring to a hard boil 2 cups of apple cider vinegar and 2 cups of water - optionally add in 1 TBS of minced garlic.

At this stage if you want more flavoring, or to add sugar, go for it. As mentioned, I am not a fan of over powering and changing the beet flavor too much, but please make them how you would prefer!

Now, while your brine is boiling, peel and chop up your beets!

Peel your beets. If the skins don't fall off just gently peel with a vegetable peeler.
Peel your beets. If the skins don't fall off just gently peel with a vegetable peeler.
Love that bright red juice!! But it will stain, so be careful.
Love that bright red juice!! But it will stain, so be careful.

Step Two: Chop it, pack it, drench it!

With your brine starting to heat up, peel your. beets and chop them up. It can be any size you choose! I normally chop them in half and the make about 1/2 inch slices. This makes it easy to fit into the jars. Be careful in this area and not just because of the knife. The red juice is really pretty, but unless you WANT to dye your clothes, wear something that you don't mind getting splattered because the juice can stain.

Once chopped evenly distribute the beet slices between your prepared jars. Depending on how big your beets were you might have very full jars or just slightly full jars. Don't worry about it either way. As long as your bine covers the top of the beets you will be good to go.

Taking your boiling brine off the stove top, pour it directly over the beets making sure to cover them completely. Immediately put lids on the jars and hand tighten.

What do you mean I have to wait? I want to eat them now!
What do you mean I have to wait? I want to eat them now!

Step Three: Fridge or Can?

If you are going to pop these into the fridge you are done! Just wait at least three days to make sure they flavor is good. But the process for fridge pickling is done!

If you want to can the beets you now need to process them. If you have a pressure canner you can always use that, but it's not needed for beets since we have pickled them with a lot of vinegar. You just need to do a hot water bath.

In a large pot (that can cover the quart jars) bring water to a boil and add your jars. You will need to process them for at least 15 minutes at low elevations. If you live at higher elevations you will need to increase the time.

Also, you can just add your jars directly to the water before it is boiling, but the clock doesn't start until the water is boiling.

Once they are canned and sealed you can store them for another day! If you are canning them I would assume you aren't opening them immediately so you don't have to worry about the three day waiting period.

Note: If you are experienced with canning then you know there are more precautions you can take - never store with lids tightened; once water bath is done let sit without moving for 24 hours, etc. If you are not experienced with canning please read up on it a little bit more and make sure you are comfortable with the process. Canning is a wonderful way to store food, but can be dangerous if you don't follow the instructions. If you are curious about canning I recommend the book below for basic and advance instruction.

Pickled beets are so good. I love having them as a side to my lunches, in certain ramen dishes ... Also, once the beets are gone, don't pour out the brine! Hard boil 5-6 eggs and put them in the jar! If there is one thing I love more than pickled beets, it beet pickled eggs!

I made a short video as well of the process, check it out below and perhaps skip all my rambling words!

Also, tell me what you think about pickled beets. My wife hates pickled everything, so I am truly alone at my house when I make these!

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Questions & Answers

  • How long do the beets last in the refrigerator if I do not can and seal them?

    Pickled beets can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator. To be honest, though, they never last longer than a few weeks at my house, so I have never tested it to that degree.

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