Beets: A Canning Kind of Day

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Saturday, a few weeks back, was full of firsts.

One: I actually cooked with my dad for, best as I can recall, the first time ever…
Two: We managed to master the fine art of canning!
Three: I created a beet pickling juice that is absolutely delicious!

Beets were the name of the game. We canned 9 quarts.

I’m bragging left and right about the awesome success of this adventure, but I honestly haven’t even tasted the final product. That might be a good idea. Okay, here goes! I’m going to pop open a jar and give this the old AT&T (Appearance, Texture & Taste) rating!

Appearance: Beautiful. Brilliant beet-red quartered slices in gorgeous juice.

Texture: Tender, but firm. Not mushy.

Taste: A touch of sweet and cinnamon wrapped in a pleasantly acidic lemon/vinegar kick. The beet flavor itself is certainly not masked, but it IS softly subdued by the seasonings.

It looks like our first canning adventure was a success!

I’m especially pleased with the flavor since I kind of composed the recipe on the spot. My great grandmother’s cookbook was vague: “add vinegar, salt, and sugar to taste” (this gave me the creative license to experiment). A neighbor’s recipe called for large amounts of white sugar (which I switched to cane sugar and greatly reduced) and various spices (which I added in proportion to my personal appreciation of the flavor. Cinnamon: Love it! Load ‘er up! Nutmeg: Tolerable. Several shakes. Ginger: Ew. None). Still another recipe added lemon (I liked the sound of that AND happened to have a lemon staring me in the face, so it went in as well).

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If you watch me cook you’ll soon realize that I never follow recipes. I’ll answer before you ask: Yes, sometimes it ends quite badly. Terribly, even. Just ask my husband :). But it isn’t entirely my fault, I swear! I came about it honestly! My mom is notorious for not following recipes. Making food out of whatever we had available was her specialty when we were growing up. She would open the cupboards, drawers, and doors, gather boxes, cans, and veggies and create a delicious, entirely unique meal. My dad used to eat dinner and say, “This is really good. Too bad we’ll never have it again!”

That being said, it would be more appropriate to just provide a list of ingredient for the beet pickling juice rather than an honest-to-goodness recipe. Nevertheless, I will list the measurements I used, just for fun, along with my unconventional measuring devices. For my taste buds at least, this was just right!

15 ladles of beet juice (from boiling the beets)
12 ladles of apple cider vinegar
Approximately 1 ladle of pure cane sugar
2 heaping cereal spoons of ground cinnamon
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1-2 generous shakes of nutmeg

We boiled, peeled, and sliced the beets, then cut the larger slices into quarters. Meanwhile, the pickling liquid was warming on the stovetop. We then filled the sterilized canning jars with beets, ladled in the pickling liquid, and sealed all the jars with new canning lids. Then, into the boiling water they went!

The first batch went smoothly. The second batch, we lost one jar to temperature inversion. We filled all the jars at the same time and the second round jars were beginning to cool by the time we got around to the canning step again. Lesson learned!

All and all, it was a great day! And I’ve got enough beets to last until harvest next year…

(Originally posted on my old blog, Interim Arts, on August 25, 2013)

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