I've found many pickling posts and recipes on Chow, but I'm hard pressed to find a simple BEET pickling recipe on here. And I'm hesitant to take one at random of of the interweb. So I turn to you, my fellow chowhounds and ask for you expertise.
I do have a few questions I'd like answered:
1) Should the beets be blanched or boiled before hand?Peeled? Will roasting them do anything to bring out the flavour even more, or with roasting simply make them too soft and cause them to break down in the vinegar? Is there any other kind of prep that they require?
2) What KIND of vinegar? Regular white vineger? Is there a type "pickling vinegar" that I should look for?
3) Should vinegar be the only fluid I put in, or should it be cut with...something else? For the record, I don't mind the sourness of of vinegar. I just don't want to do antyhign that will ruin the pickling process.
4) Spices/sugar/salt need to be added to the brine? If so, what kind of spices?
5) Do the jars need to be boiled (ala jam) before or after they are sealed? Note that I'd probably want to make 2-4 jars, and they'd probably last a couple of months.
6) Minimum time I should wait before I pounce on this jarred sweet-and-sour deliciousness?
That's about all the questions I can think of, but I'd be willing to listen to any tips or advice you have to to throw my way. :)
This is a tested recipe from the folks who write the USDA canning guidelines. It answers all your questions:
I don't put in the onions (optional). I don't use their spices, instead I use 1/4 cup of whole allspice berries, which gives them a subtle cinnamon-y flavour. Another poster used a steam oven to get the skins off, sounds easier but I don't have one so I still do it the hard way. I have eaten them right away--you don't have to wait.
The end result are PERFECT in making borscht, just drain the brine and don't use vinegar in the borscht recipe.
Follow the clean, hot jar method. How about dill? Or cumin? Orange peel? Most recipes I have seen call for ~2:1 vinegar: water:sugar.
I'm going to go crazy and disagree that you need to cook the beets first if you're pickling, but I hate mooshy beets. I eat them al dente or when fresh, raw. The tradition is that they are eaten mooshy which is why I think most recipes call for precooking. They are close to carrots, density-wise, assuming they're not whole. I make pickled carrots all the time, and they are always raw pack, processed for 15-20 minutes with a straight vinegar brine plus sugar and salt. I will treat my beets the same. If it's pickled, there's not going to be a safety issue, so pre-cook them or not depending on your preference, but that's just MO.
I consider a month to be the minimum sit time for stuff like this.
I just made some pickled beets a couple of days ago. I also didn't have an old reliable recipe so I did a lot of googling to find something I might like. Problem for me was that I don't like the "sweet" spices that are usually paired with beets - cloves, cinnamon, allspice. I wanted something more savoury - so I found a recipe and made some switcheroos:
Instead of the spice mixture they recommend (which was kind of confusing on the page anyway) I added to each jar one large peeled garlic clove, a teaspoon of mixed pickling spices (the kind you might add to dill pickles), and 1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes. I also added 2 tbsp. salt to the full batch of brine because I couldn't imagine a pickle that wasn't at least a little salty.
As for the process itself, yes you have to fully cook the beets and peel them before packing into jars. This isn't particularly onerous - I steamed the beets and when they're tender right through, the peels just about slip off. Use rubber gloves when you do this unless you like the look of weirdly red hands. The brine consists of vinegar, sugar and water (see recipe above) and I used ordinary white vinegar and plain white sugar. You could, I suppose, use cider vinegar and/or brown sugar if you wanted to. I didn't boil the spices in the brine the way the recipe says, I just boiled up the brine and added spices to each jar. I don't mind the spices being mixed with the beets - maybe some people do. Anyway, so pack freshly washed canning jars with your beets, brine, and whatnot, place new, clean canning lids on top and screw down the bands. Place in a boiling water bath and boil - as the recipe instructs - for 30 minutes. This isn't a difficult as long as you have a big enough pot. The Bernardin website, where the recipe comes from, is full of good canning info if you're new at this.
Have fun. Not sure how long to leave the beets before eating them. Since it's still summer, I'll wait until at least fall before cracking open a jar.