Old-Fashioned Pickled Red Beets
This pickled red beets recipe is adapted from an old family cookbook; one in which ingredients are listed, but measurements are not. The dishes created from these recipes were always fabulous, but preparing them successfully today without measurements requires creative guesswork.
After a little experimentation, we determined the measurement ratios needed to achieve the old-fashioned pickled red beet flavor we remember so fondly. Here, measurements are calculated based on the quantity of red beets we harvested from our garden one day this summer. We used our first harvest for salads and borscht and the second harvest for this pickled beets home canning recipe.
Simply adjust our recipe to match your starting quantity of red beets or the final yield you desire. I started with approximately 15 quarts of whole red beets; finished with 11 full quarts of pickled beets; and had nearly two cups of pickling juice remaining. You can use any extra pickling juice as a dressing for fresh cucumbers or tomatoes. Otherwise, reduce the vinegar and water quantities in your recipe.
Pickled Red Beets
From the Kitchen of Helen Yeisley Miller, 1898 – 1962
- 15 quarts whole red beets
- 2 quarts cider vinegar
- 4 quarts water
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Yield: 11 quarts
Wash quart jars in hot soapy water. Since they will boil with their contents for 10 minutes, sterilizing them prior to filling is not necessary.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer. Remove from
heat and place your canning lids in this hot water. Leave
them in the water until you are ready to seal your jars.
While the beets are cooking, fill your water bath canner halfway with water and bring it to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn off the heat. Suspend the canning rack in your water bath canner by locking its handles over the sides of the canner.
Remove greens from the red beets and wash the beets under cold water. Place whole, unpeeled beets in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Cover with cold water.
While the beets are still warm but cool enough to handle, slide off the skins. (They will slide off without your having to use a peeler as long as you keep the beets submerged in water.) After you remove the skins, slice the beets into even 1/4″ slices.
Fill each quart jar with beets. Pack them tightly if your intention is to serve them as they are. If you plan to use them in recipes for pickled eggs and need more pickling juice for the recipe, then pack them loosely. Leave 1/2″ of headspace in each jar.
Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pepper to a clean stockpot
and bring this pickling mixture to a boil. As soon as it boils and
the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat.
Pour this pickling juice over the red beets filling each jar to leave 1/4″ of headspace. Place a canning lid and band on each jar and turn the band until snug. Place each jar in your water bath canner, which already contains hot water.
After you load the rack with your first batch of jars, lower the rack into the water. Ensure that the jars and their lids are covered with water (lids should be 1″ below the surface of the water). Bring the water bath to a boil and cover it with a lid. Boil for 10 minutes.
After boiling for 10 minutes, turn off the heat. Using insulated mitts or hot pads, lift the jar rack and suspend it from the sides of your water bath canner. Place a kitchen towel on your counter and using a jar lifter, remove each jar from the rack and place it on the towel.
Ensure that each band is twisted on snuggly and allow the jars to cool while the lids seal themselves. (Lids are sealed when their centers appear with slight depressions in them and when pressed, the lids have no movement. If they pop or move up and down in the center, they are not sealed.)
After the jars have cooled and the lids are sealed, carefully remove the bands. Store your pickled red beets in a cool, dark pantry for up to 12 months. Serve cold or at room temperature. Refrigerate opened jars.