Poor maligned beets! With descriptors like, they taste like dirty socks, mud and even wood, it’s no wonder they have a bad rap to overcome. Unlike former president George H.W. Bush who disliked broccoli, our current president is on the record as a beet hater, thus they are not grown in the White House garden. Well all I am saying is “give beets a chance!”
Over the last few years I have developed a growing affection for beets. In addition to the traditional Detroit Dark Red we have been growing the candy striped Chiogga (kee-oh-ja) and the bright orange-yellow Golden beet.We grow small crops of a row or two in succession all throughout the season. Beets pulled fresh from the garden have a sweet, rich and yes, earthy flavor.
I like to take small beets and either julienne or thinly slice them raw for salads. Roasted beets are good either sliced or cut in wedges on a bed of baby greens with orange supremes, goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
This summer I found myself with too many beets to use in a short amount of time. I decided to pickle some so they can be enjoyed over the course of several weeks. Pickling, simply put, is a way of preserving in a vinegar or brine mixture. The acid in the vinegar slows bacterial growth and the beets keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
I chose a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine that used both red wine and red wine vinegar. As with any recipe, use a red wine as well as a red wine vinegar that you would be happy to drink and cook with on their own. A word of warning, red beets will stain your fingers, if you want to avoid that, wear disposable gloves when working with them. They taste great right away and even better once they have a chance to chill in the fridge. You can enjoy them on their own or add a few along with their liquid to brighten up a hummus recipe. Don’t forget, the beet greens are good to eat. Remove any large stems, blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, Drain well and saute in olive oil with some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes.
Wine Pickled Beets
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
- 2 lb. trimmed red beets (about 5 medium)
- 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 whole allspice berries
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Put the beets in a 4-quart pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are crisp-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Peel and halve the beets. Slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and distribute among three 1-pint jars or other sealable nonreactive containers.
- In a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the wine, vinegar, orange juice, sugar, allspice, cloves, and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Pour the liquid over the beets to cover. Let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours to cool and pickle the beets. Serve, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.