I remember the turning point clearly. The day that my taste buds changed and I learned to like, and then love, what I used to despise. It had happened before, first with red wine then with olives and now, finally, with beets. My mother, who was visiting from out of town, placed on the table a white ceramic plate piled high with little cubes of bright orange roasted yams, crimson beets, and crispy potatoes, leeks and rosemary. Although it was late summer, the kitchen smelled of autumn.
What I had never liked about beets was that they always tasted of freshly tilled soil, and smelled a little like it too. Served with the sweet yams and the pungent rosemary the earthiness of the beets took a big step into the background. While I can't say I fell in love with beets that night, it was the start of a love affair that continues to this day.
I need to stop and thank a good friend of mine, Ryan, for reminding me of a tradition that I've had over the last three years that I somehow almost forgot this year. Sitting at Judas Goat and eating their Marinated Beet Salad with Seasoned Ricotta & Rosemary Honey, our conversation sounded something like this: Mmm, OMG this is delicious. Mmm, I love beets. Mmm … I think you get the point. It wasn't until he mentioned his love of canned beets that I remembered about the Ginger Pickled Baby Beets that I have been making for the last few years.
These are the beets that changed my mind about pickled beets. At the same time they manage to be warm and winter-like from the ginger and cool and crisp like summer. The earthy soil taste, which I have grown to love, shines through. Plus, seeing the dark red jar in my fridge makes me happy.
This year I decided to try out another recipe: Maple and Ginger and Pickled Beets with Pearl Onions. The salad Ryan and I shared at Judas Goat was quite sweet and I must have salivated over it still when I read this recipe. I would love to tell you how the sweetness of the maple syrup compliments the spiciness of the ginger, but I cannot. At they moment both jars are sitting pretty on my counter waiting for two weeks for the flavours to fully ripen. I can tell you though that if they taste as good as they look then I might be without pickled beets even before the end of beet season.
Now my fingers are crossed that Ryan will love the Ginger Pickled Baby Beets as much as I do, and the Maple and Ginger Pickled Beets as much as I think I will. Happy belated birthday, Ryan.
- 20 baby beets
- 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup sliced fresh ginger
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 6-star anise
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- To sterilize the jars, begin by washing them well. Once you have washed the jars place them on a baking sheet and put them in your oven. Turn your oven on to 240 degrees Fahrenheit and leave the jars in your oven for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is up turn off the heat and open the oven door a crack so they can begin to cool slightly.
- While the jars are sterilizing, begin preparing the beets. Remove the stems from the beets and scrub them thoroughly. Place beets in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring the pot to a boil. Cook the beets until they are fork tender.
- While beets are cooking, mix remaining ingredients together in a medium-sized pot and bring the pot to a boil. Boil hard for 3 minutes then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.
- Drain the beets and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle. Once they are cool remove the skin from the beets. It will easily peel off with your fingers. Cut the beets in half or leave whole if they are very small.
- Pack the beets into the sterilized jars with a piece of star anise and a few pieces of ginger. Pour the pickling liquid over beets. Leave a ¼″ space at the top of the jar. Seal lid and allow it to sit for at least 2 weeks.
Adapted from a recipe on epicurious.com
Makes enough to fill 2 – 750ml jars
- 8 small shallots
- 15 small to medium sized beets, washed and stems trimmed
- 1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 whole star anise
- 6 – 2′ slices of ginger
- Sterilize jars by washing then place in a cool oven and turn the heat to 350 degrees. Leave in oven for 10 minutes at full heat then allow them to cool.
- Boil shallots or pearl onions for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve water. When cool enough to handle, remove skins from the onions.
- Add beets to onion water and cook until soft when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes.
- While beets are boiling, add remaining ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 3 minutes then allow the mixture to cool.
- Drain beets and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skin from beets (they will slide off easily using your hands.)
- Cut beets in half, or quarters if large. Fill sterilized jars with onions and beets. Add a few star anise and slices of ginger to each jar.
- Pour the vinegar liquid into the jars until it covers the beets and is within 1/4 inch from the top of the jar.
- Seal jar and allow to sit for 2 weeks in your pantry.