Pickled Beets

A portion of yesterday's harvest:

In this basket are (what must be) the very last of the snap peas, tiny "Paris market" carrots, a pair of red onions, and beets. The onions aren't quite ready to be picked, but I needed some to fulfill a promise to Tiegan.

This summer she is planning to make dinner for us once a week (supposedly with help from her brother, but his enthusiasm for this project remains to be seen). She has gone through Kirk's old "Meals of Many Lands" children's cookbook and decided on Scandinavia. Thus the request for pickled beets.

So that these would definitely be ready for next week's dinner (I convinced her to do France first), I am going with a quick refrigerator pickle rather than a ferment. I used Alton Brown's recipe with a few modifications:

After washing and trimming a dozen small-to-medium beets, I drizzled them with olive oil and added a couple cloves of peeled garlic (instead of shallots) and a couple sprigs of rosemary, then wrapped them up in a foil packet and put them in the oven, where they roasted for an hour at 400 degrees. I tested the smaller ones with a knife (which should go right through when they're done) at 25 and again at 45 minutes, but it seems that all beets require an hour. 

After taking them out of the oven, I let them cool before peeling the skins (if you pinch slightly and drag your thumb and forefinger across the beet to the tip, the skin mostly rubs right off. 

Next up: slice the beets and onion (I used two small ones) thinly. You'll notice that these are Chioggia beets, which aren't red all the way through, but rather are variegated with red and white rings. We've never grown them before, but they are supposed to be very sweet. I can say for certain that they are no where near as messy as red beets, either for peeling or cutting — no stained fingers here!

After washing out a wide-mouthed pint jar, I layered the beets and onions. I packed them flat and gave a good press to make more room, but I still had some left over. 

The brine is next, and it's just a cup of vinegar, a cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, boiled. The original recipe called for tarragon wine vinegar, which isn't something we keep lying around. So I just threw a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon in the mix as it was heating up, and stuck one down the side of the jar after pouring in the brine:

By the way, this sounds like a lot of sugar to me — especially if these beets are as sweet as their reputation would have me believe — so I used slightly less than a 1/2 cup of sugar. 

I put the leftover beet slices in a ramekin and covered them with the leftover brine (this recipe probably made enough for 1 quart). I also added two small cloves of garlic to make up for not having any onions left, and put in the other sprig of tarragon from the brine: 

The capped pint and the ramekin cooled overnight on the counter, and then the pint went into the fridge to await Tiegan's culinary wizardry next week. The ramekin ones are for tasting now, though, and they are really good. These beets don't taste like dirt at all — you know how beets can be. I'm not sure if that's due to variety or due to all the vinegar and tarragon. That sprig of tarragon really flavored these, and I'm hoping that the ratio of the sprig to a whole pint jar is a little more subtle. Still, I'm enjoying these more than I expected, and it's nice to have some pickle choices available. I'm thinking these will be good with a cheese plate ...


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