I've been slaving in the garden and the kitchen -- from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. yesterday. My back and feet ache, the beds of my nails are blackened, I'm hot, and I missed yoga. But it's all worth it for the beets.
Here's my family pickled beets recipe:
6 lb. beets (not counting the leaves in the weight)
(Note: My aunt's original recipe, which I printed in the blog previously, said "2 lb." of beets. That just can't be right. I had much more than 2 pounds yesterday and got 7 pints. I didn't weigh the beets, but I feel like it has to be at least 6 pounds.)
2 c. apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Mixed Pickling Spice (available in the spice section of your supermarket) placed in a muslin bag (the muslin bag is very important unless you want to get unpleasant crunchy things in your mouth when you're eating your pickles...)
Cook the beets. To cook: Cut the leaves off with about 1/2 inch of stems left on. Leave the skins on. Boil the beets 'til tender. Drain off hot water and let them cool until you can handle them. Then take a little paring knife and cut off the tops and the bottoms. The skins will slip right off in your hand. Discard the skins. If the beets are small, leave them whole. If they are large, slice vertically or horizontally, or cut in chunks to suit your mood.
Put clean jars and lids in a large pot of hot water and keep hot until ready to use, but do not boil.
Combine all syrup ingredients, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Add cooked, prepared beets to the syrup and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lemon slices and spice bag.
Pack beets in hot pint or quart jars. Pour hot syrup over, bringing the liquid close to the top (with about 1/4 inch headspace). Put on lids and screw bands; tighten. Allow to cool.
I like to let my pickled items cure for a few weeks before serving, and pickled beets are best served chilled.
This recipe makes about 6 pints. I squeezed a 7th out of it because that's how many beets I had. I had to make a little extra syrup to pour over the 7th pint. It doesn't seem like much for the amount of beets I started with and the amount of work I put into it, but next winter I will have forgotten all that. I have enough beets still growing to result in at least two more batches like this, so that by the time winter rolls around, I'll have quite a nice little store of these pretty, delicious jars, and enough to share a few as gifts. The remaining beets needed to be thinned out so they could have room to mature. I always plant many more than I think I'll need, because I practice this sequential thinning technique, using the ones I harvest as I go along.