To the beauty of the beet: it is a root vegetable of many blessings to the self-sufficient gardener and cook—an early grower, edible from root to leaf-top, beautiful, versatile, and makes its home near the top the list for nutritional value.
Winter cultivates a desire for pickled edibles. The palate matches the season in that sprightly pickled beets compliment cold weather main dishes, often heavy with dairy creams and rich meats. Beets from the garden were preserved at summer’s end for a salad just such as this (canning recipe below).
The work involved with pickling beets is rather worth the effort. The vegetable is good shredded raw on salads or roasted in the oven, however, the pickling process adds sugar and spice to the benefit of the beet. I tried this recipe with oven roasted beets and it was good, but not nearly what it can be through pickling.
Preserved, beets are seasoned to perfection, through and through. A jar can be pulled for topping salads, used as an instant vegetable side dish for many entrees, or eaten simply as a coveted appetizer.
Blueberry-Beet Winter Salad Recipe
1 1/2 c blueberries or purple or red grapes, season dependent
1 pint jar pickled beets, coarsely chopped
1 large head spinach, washed and torn
3/4 c roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 c feta cheese (our Sunny Pine Farm chèvre feta is local preference)
fresh ground pepper to taste
If canning isn’t in the cards, modify this recipe as follows: roast the beets on 400 degrees for about 25 minutes and make up a sweet vinaigrette. I love working with sherry as it seems to enhance flavor complexities in a wide variety of foods. However, you may easily substitute other vinegars.
1 shallot, finely minced
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 t Dijon mustard
1 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c sherry vinegar
~ Carefully sauté shallots in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil until transparent and just beginning to brown; remove from heat and cool.
~Combine shallots, garlic, vinegar and mustard with whisk or food processor; emulsion is the key to a good vinaigrette, so proceed slowly with olive oil, pouring in a steady, small stream while mixing until smooth (using a food processor for this step hastens mixing immensely, but is not necessary, have much patience); add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
~The presentation of this salad is best plated individually, so begin with beds of spinach.
~Combine chopped beets and blueberries in a bowl and set aside; roast walnuts and chop.
~Assemble salads by topping each spinach bed with approximately 1/2 cup beet and blueberry mixture; sprinkle with nuts and cheese; dress with vinaigrette or not as desired and serve.
Yield: about 6 servings
Sweet & Spicy Pickled Beets ~ Recipe for boiling water canner
10-12 medium sized beets, or 4 pounds
3 c onions, sliced long and thin
3 sticks cinnamon, broken
2 c sugar
1 t sea salt (to taste)
1 T allspice, whole
1 t cloves, whole
2 1/2 c cider vinegar
3 c water
4 cayenne peppers, whole and preferably fresh
4 cloves garlic
~Wash beets and trim stems and roots to about 2 inches (this will allow easy skin removal); boil in water until tender, remove and drain; when cool enough to handle, remove peel and trim ends if necessary.
~Combine remaining ingredients, besides peppers and garlic, in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
~Add beets and simmer until heated throughout; remove cinnamon sticks.
~Using sanitary, hot pint jars, add one garlic clove and one cayenne pepper to each; pack beets into jars and ladle hot liquid over beets, leaving 1/4 inch headspace; remove air bubbles and adjust two-piece caps; process in boiling water canner for 30 minutes.
Yield: 5 pints
The Beet as Food Coloring
One of the niftiest uses for beets is as a natural food coloring. For those attempting to avoid synthetic food coloring (often containing unnatural or toxic chemicals), the beet is the ticket. Simply slice the root into chunks, cover with water, and simmer down the liquid into a thick, fuchsia sauce.
This natural food coloring is virtually tasteless and is great added to frostings or desert sauces on special occasions. My daughter knows it well as her signature birthday cake coloring.
Love from our garden kitchen to yours, Georgina @ Soul & Stomach