Despite our strong Polish heritages (hey, don’t laugh!) me and Daniel rarely cook with fresh beets. Why?! They are amazingly healthy for you (in fact, WHfoods.com, which stands for world’s healthiest foods, has a whole article on them) and they really don’t need a lot of stuff to doctor them up.
The medium sized beets are more tender and have a better taste than larger ones (say, over 3 or 4 inches in diameter) You want to make sure that they are free from bruising and spots. Store them in a bag in your fridge, or just eat them the day you get them (like we do!)
When we get our food from the CSA the first thing we do is cut off the leaves to give our food better refrigerator access. But don’t throw them away! Did you know that the leaves are edible too? They work great in any simple recipe requiring basic greens. Last night I simply boiled mine in some chicken broth with spinach and turnip greens and just a little bit of salt and pepper. It was quick, easy, and very healthy.
Another great thing to do with beets is feed them to your babies. Check with your pediatrician, but they should be able to eat them between 8 and 10 months. Just steam them, peel them, and throw them in the food processor for a couple pulses. They’re naturally sweet so your little one can may love taking a break from more common snacks! This may not be the best finger food though, as they tend to make for messy hands.
A fun way to preserve beets for future eating is to pickle them.
I’d never tried to pickle beets myself before, but my husband’s grandmother makes them and the whole family seems to love her recipe so I figured it was worth the attempt. Although I didn’t have her recipe I found that it was extremely easy to make without using one at all. There are, however, a few tricks to make it easier.
To prepare the beets for cooking cut off everything but an inch or so of their stems and roots. You will eventually be removing these, but if you cut them off before you boil them then the color will begin to leak out. Wash them thoroughly.
Cover them in boiling water for about 35-40 minutes, until they are tender.
Now for the fun part: taking off the skins! You put them in an ice bath to cool or do what I did, which is run them under running water while you rub the sides.Â The skins will come off pretty easily, but under the running water I worried less about my hands staining (I naively began this project a few hours before I had to go to work, so I couldn’t afford to go in with what looked like blood stained hands)
Slice them up, put them in jars, then make the pickling liquid to pour over top of them. To make that you want to combine the following ingredients in a small pan until they are dissolved together:
- Equal parts vinegar (apple cider seems to be a popular one) and water. The amount that you use will depend on how many jars you want to fill. If you’re just using a small amount, like me, try with about 2 cups of each.
- Sugar– Beets have so much natural sugar in them that I couldn’t stand the thought of adding much more. I did about 1 cup sugar.
- Spices– Cinnamon, cloves, and allspice all would work well. Remember: this is not an exact science! Feel free to experiment with different tastes and see what YOU like the most. Try to make these in small batches, keeping notes of what you add, until you get the flavor that you want.
If you’re just making a small amount like us then you may as well just put them in jars in the fridge. Give it at least a week to let all of the flavors blend together before you serve them. I made mine amount a month ago and they are still tasting great! The vinegar and spices give the beets an added depth that makes them a great side.
Now it’s your turn: Tell me, how do you eat your beets?