Monday, July 15, 2013

Pickled Roasted Lemon Beets

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. – Oscar Wilde 

Beets swelling in the ground. Those greens look pretty tasty, too.

There will soon be “putting up” to be done from the results of our gardening. In less than a month we will have more beets than we will know what to do with.

Luckily, I do know what to do with them.

One of the "secret ingredients" in this recipe: cardamom.
Now before you stop reading because “beets taste like dirt,” let me explain why you may think that.

Beets do have an “earthy” flavour, but it’s because of a compound called geosmin. It gives off a smell like a field after a rainstorm. We are very sensitive to the smell of it, and while some people love it, others do hate it. There’s three other kitchen culprits that are high in geosmin: spinach, lettuce and mushrooms. Are any of those on your hate list too?

You probably eat beets – or beet products – without knowing it. Nearly half of the world’s sugar is derived from beets. The red pigment found in beets is also used to naturally colour many foods, including ice cream and yogurt.

That red pigment has been scientifically linked to good immune system function and the ability to fight cancer, as it is a powerful antioxidant. Beets are also disgustingly high in iron and are often suggested for people suffering from anemia.

So there’s plenty of reasons to eat beets, in spite of the dirt-like taste.

I find another attractive feature is that they’re a “double” vegetable. You can eat the greens as well as the root. Turnips are the same way. We should have planted turnips as well. Next year...

Beets are a very versatile vegetable and can be used in a myriad of ways, if you don't like them pickled. One of my other favourite way is in risotto with walnuts and gorgonzola. The recipe is here. It’s amazing.

They're coming along quite nicely.
My all-time favourite is still pickled, though. It reminds me of growing up. We always had jars of them in the basement, ready to be brought up onto the table.

I do find that roasting (as opposed to boiling) brings out more of the natural sugars in the beets. It gives them a deep, sweet taste that complements the pickling liquid and spice even more.

I imagine in a few weeks I’ll be busily “putting up” jars in anticipation of the cold, blowing winter weather that will most definitely come. I kind of am reminded of Aesop's fable of the ant and the grasshopper. It's charming, if cautionary. If you don't remember it, a link is here.

This recipe is a variation on the classic that I posted about a month ago. I find beets are at their best with a little added interest. In this one I use lemon peel and cardamom.

My beets came from the grocery store as ours aren't quite ready to harvest. But I couldn't pass them up. They were beautiful.

I will have to deal with a lot of cucumbers, among other things, or so it appears. They seem to be taking off with a vengeance as well. Trials and tribulations!

Making your own pickled beets is actually very easy.
Pickled Roasted Lemon Beets
Time: 1 hr 30 min  |  Yield 1 L or 2 x 500 ml
1 L Mason jar or 2 x 500 ml Mason jars
6-8 fresh beets (from 2 bunches)
sweet pickling liquid:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
rind of 1lemon
6-7 whole cardamom pods

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash, and then trim the tops and root ends from the beets. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil.

Roast the beets for 1 hour. Remove and then let cool until able to be handled.

Slip the skins off the beets and slice into serving pieces. Tightly pack the two jars, or 1 jar, with the slices, leaving 1/2" head room.

Bring the pickling ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then pour the liquid over the beets while still very hot.

If you need more liquid to cover the slices simply make more and add to the jars. Beets do vary in size.

Tightly cover the jars and let cool on the counter. Then refrigerate. If the tops pop down and seal they can also be stored in a cool, dark place, like a basement.

Allow 2 weeks for the flavours to permeate the beets.


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