In some ways, this summer seemed to last forever. Weeks, months went by, most of them deliciously offline, in a blur of good food, good company and greenery, and then, suddenly, it was autumn. I don’t really mind, though. I’m already looking forward to long walks in the forest, fall foliage, steaming bowls of soup and Gothic stories. In the meantime, I’m trying to settle back into post-holiday life by doing something domestic, like pickling a bunch o’red beets.
I love beetroot and its earthy, sweet aroma seems to call out for the added tang of vinegar and spices. I’ve kept it fairly simple as far as the latter go, but you can add whatever you like: star anise, dried chilli, cloves, cinnamon, allspice etc. Pickled beetroot is great on sandwiches, salads, with soft cheese or smoked fish, or even on its own as a snack; purple fingers guaranteed.
Ingredients (for 1 large mason jar):
1kg red beets
700 ml balsamic vinegar
50 g brown sugar
1-2 bay leaves
black pepper corns
coarse sea salt
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- Heat the oven to 200 celcius. Prick the beets with a fork, wrap them in tin foil and bake them for at least an hour.
- Leave them to cool down in their tin foil jackets, then unwrap and peel them and finally slice them thinly.
- Toast the bay leaf and mustard seeds in a dry saucepan on medium heat.
- When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the vinegar and sugar and heat through till all the sugar is dissolved.
- Pack all the sliced beets into a sterilised jar* and sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt between the layers.
- Pour over the hot vinegar, make sure everything is covered and close the lid.
*How to sterilise glass jars:
Wash the jar with warm soapy water. Rinse well and then put in a low oven (140 degrees) for about 10-15 minutes until completely dry.
A note on vinegar:
Balsamic vinegar will give a sweeter, rounder taste, but it is also much less acidic than some other vinegars. If you want to keep the pickles for a long time, you could use white wine vinegar or malt vinegar, either on their own or in combination with balsamic vinegar. The higher acidity means the beetroot will have a longer shelf-life, but you might want to double the amount of sugar to counter the sharpness of the vinegar.