At this time of year, I simply love digging through my veg patch to see what treasures lay buried but as yet undiscovered. Every year I grow beetroot and carrots with great enthusiasm – they are so easy and so rewarding! There’s nothing like a delve through the foliage to see what’s there, especially at this time of year, because at this time of year, it is time to get pickling! And there is nothing I like more than a pickle!
Now pickling, the first time I tried it, put the fear of a school physics lesson in me! I had a huge pile of beetroot and a pile of ingredients and no clue what I was doing. I had a plan courtesy of Google and I took the job of sterilising my jars as seriously as any surgeon would his instruments!
Several years later, I’ve discovered that there is no great science to the noble art of pickling – it requires some basic science to achieve the goal of preserving the items in question, but the rules are few and the possibilities endless! Whether you like it sweet, spicy or dill pickled, the choice is yours!
For me, pickling also evokes a memory of childhood that I truly treasure. A memory of my grandmother’s cellar, stacked with the pickled fruits and vegetables from her amazing garden and bountiful orchard. Nothing ever went to waste and that dusty, musky room was an Aladdin’s cave of homemade Sauerkirschen, jams, pickles, and the obligatory Rumtopf full of soft fruit and the strongest of booze.
So What Exactly is Pickling?
I have found that understanding the process of pickling is what gives you pickling confidence! The art of pickling occurs in just about every culture around the world and depending on where you live, you are as likely to pickle a pig’s foot as a cucumber.
But the theory and much of the process remain the same and essentially involves immersing the foodstuff that you are intending to preserve in a liquid that will stop bacteria from growing. In most cases that will be vinegar or some sort of acid, or it could be salt.
Pickling is indeed an ancient art which has been around since time began, hence its underlying simplicity. In days of old, it was a vital way to preserve food stocks and crops, before fridges were invented!
And pickling appeals to many because it not only changes the taste but also the texture of whatever you are pickling and for real pickle fans, that’s what it is all about!
Let’s Get Pickling…
In my particular case, I favour vinegar-based pickling! I have dabbled with salt trying to make my own sauerkraut, but we will leave that sorry story for another day! For the purposes of my beetroot, a daring combination of vinegar, sugar and some spices will do just fine!
The Simple Way to Pickle Beetroot
This method is based on a quantity of 1kg of beetroot – you can adjust all quantities according to how much beetroot you might have. I even make one jar at a time sometimes.
You also don’t need to make your own pickling vinegar – you can buy it ready spiced from the supermarket, but where’s the fun in that!
And of course, you can use just about any vegetable and any spice or flavour you have to hand if you want to get very experimental!
- 1kg of Beetroot or other veg
For the Pickling Vinegar
Any or all of the below – you can adjust entirely to your tastes and have some fun with it – these are just suggestions – asterisks indicated my tried and tested combo!
- 1 tbsp of black *peppercorns
- 1 tbsp of *coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp juniper berries
- 1/2 tbsp of *cloves
- 1/2 tsp of *dried chilli flakes (add more if you like it very spicy)
- 2 *star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- a shallot thinly sliced
- 700 ml of *white wine or red wine vinegar or malt vinegar
- 100g of sugar – *light brown is good!
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Trim your beetroot and cover it in foil. Roast until soft (depending on the size of your beetroot, anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour or two – simply test it with a knife or skewer). Alternatively, you can boil in their skins for around an hour depending on size.
- Cool the beetroot and either leave whole if they are small or chop or slice.
- Make your pickling vinegar as follows:
- Toast your spices in a pan that is big enough to hold the liquid and the vegetables.
- Add the vinegar and the sugar, plus the bay leaves and star anise. Bring to the simmer.
- Pack your beetroot into sterilised jars (see below).
- Pour over the pickling vinegar until it covers the vegetable completely.
- Seal and leave for a least a week to taste, preferably six weeks. Should last up to 6 months.
To Sterilise Your Jars
- Wash thoroughly in warm soapy water, rinse and heat in a moderate oven for 5 minutes.
And So To Eat!
You can’t beat a plateful of smoked mackerel, potato salad, and home-made pickled beetroot in my view!
What is your favourite accompaniment to pickled beetroot?