September 25, 2011 by Sara Kreidler
We canned for the first time last year, and our first canning experience was pickled beets. Toby’s mom and kind enough to come over and spend the day teaching us. We learned that (1) canning wasn’t so scary after all, and (2) canning beets was a LOT of work. Today, we revisited the second lesson.
If you follow this blog, you know that we’ve put up a ton of food this summer (most notably, 180 pounds of tomatoes which yielded 80 quarts of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce), so we’re not strangers to waking up early on weekends, spending a good chunk of the day prepping and canning food and cleaning up the aftermath. We’ve had many canning adventures this summer, and even on the longest, messiest days, I found myself thinking well, it’s still not as bad as canning beets.
Today, we canned a half bushel of beets (plus about 5 more pounds that had accumulated in the fridge), which yielded 28 pints. We started at 8 am and finished up around 1:30 pm, and it would have taken a good deal longer had we not used our patented double kettle technique. Canning beets is a ton of work and it makes an incredible mess; I had to wipe down the counters, cabinets and floors several times because first they were splattered with dirt from the scrubbing phase, and then they were splattered with red beet juice from the canning phase, and then I found more places where somehow dirt and/or beet juice had landed. But the hard labor is well worth it; we love having these sweet, tangy, earthy beets all winter long — they make otherwise dull winter salads taste amazing.
We adapted the Ball Blue Book recipe of pickled beets; the Blue Book calls for adding cinnamon and allspice to the brine, but Toby’s mom doesn’t add those spices to her beets and we wanted ours to be as close to hers as possible.
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book
- 5 pounds beets
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Wash the jars in the dishwasher.
- While the jars are washing, scrub and rinse the beets to remove as much dirt as possible. Place the washed beets in a large pot and fill with water. Bring pot to a boil and cook beets until fork tender (it took about 45 minutes for us, but the time will depend upon the size of your pot and the size of your beets). Drain beets and discard cooking water. Allow beets to cool slightly. Wearing food safe latex or rubber gloves to prevent your hands from becoming stained, peel the beets by scrubbing them with a paper towel — the skins should slip right off, but you may have to cut away stubborn spots with a pairing knife. Discard skins. Cut off and discard any bad spots on the beets. Cut larger beets into chunks. Set prepared beets aside.
- Also, while the jars are washing, prep your canning area. I like to put down old (clean) kitchen towels and hot pads so I don’t have to worry about scorching the counter. Get your jar lifter, lid wand, ladle, rings, lids, and wide mouth funnel ready. I use a chopstick to remove air bubbles, but you can also use a small plastic spatula or plastic spoon (just don’t use a metal utensil, which can scratch and/or crack your jars).
- Remove hot jars from dishwasher, place inside canner and fill the canner with hot water so that all of the jars are full and covered by 1 inch of water. Put the canner on your largest burner and bring the water to a boil.
- Bring a small pot of water to a simmer. Add the lids to the simmering water; do not boil the lids.
- Combine the sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved.
- Remove the pots of simmering lids and brine from the stove and place on hot pads near your jar filling station. Place the beets near your filling station. Have the canning tools listed in step 3 handy.
- Remove 1 jar from the canning pot and dump out the water. Pack the beets in the jars. Place the jar on the counter, place the funnel on top of the jar and ladle in the hot brine, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top of the jar. Take the funnel off of the jar and use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles; add more brine if needed to maintain 1/4 inch of headspace after the jar is de-bubbled. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel. Use the lid wand to remove 1 lid from the pot and place it on top of the jar. Screw the ring onto the jar until it is finger-tip tight (you don’t want it to be too tight or the air won’t be able to escape during processing). Repeat with each jar until all of the jars are full.
- Return the jars to the boiling water in the canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Place the lid on the canner and process at a full boil for 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel on the counter. Do not disturb the jars while they cool.
- Label the sealed jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. If any of the lids fail to seal, the unsealed jars should be refrigerated because they are not shelf stable.