I've been feeling a little down the last couple weeks. A mixture of shorter days, a little heartache, and being really, really ready for the semester to be over. My little brother Simon came home for Thanksgiving last week and said his friends at school had been lusting for the pickled beets I had made last summer. "Sorry," I said in my negative and moroseful state, "no pickled beets this year."
"But that's not true," my mother chimed in. "There are lots and lots of beets left in the garden that no one ever picked!"
Simon assured me that if I agreed to pickle beets that weekend he would help. He also said that he could arrange a barter with his ex-girlfriend's parents in Vermont: a jar of beets for one of her mom's vodka infusions (which are pretty amazing...drank some last year).
Somewhat reluctantly, and not at all determined, I joined my father in the garden later that day to help dig up the beets. They hadn't been thinned and many of them were quite small. But I knew the little, tender bulbs would be delicious.
I gained momentum. In the fading daylight I trimmed off the greens (not worth saving by this time of year unfortunately) and rubbed off the big clumps of dirt.
I then set up shop in my kitchen, began sterilizing jars, and cooking the beets until they were nice and tender and their skins would peel easily.
My mood began to lift as my apartment turned into a steam room and I treated myself to a few generous glasses of wine. I downloaded some tracks from Jay-Z's new album, and just between you and me, I busted some mean dance moves during the "wait time."
Sunday afternoon Simon hopped on the train to NY with two pints of dark maroone pickled beets. The barter agreement had been finalized also- although it's rum this year, not vodka. Raspberry I think.
The recipe I used came from the same book I got the Dilly Bean recipe from. I added onions to my beets, but you can omit them if you prefer.
Cry Baby Beets (or Spicy Pickled Beets)
Select small young beets. Break off the stems (which can be cooked and eaten like spinach). Leave about an inch of the stem so that the beets do not bleed during cooking. Cook until just tender. Dip into cold water. Peel off skins. Discard stems. Large beets should be treated the same way, but slice to desired thickness. Make a syrup in the following proportions to cover (I doubled the recipe for about 10 pints):
2 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1-2 cups thinly sliced onion.
Pour over beets and boil about 10 minutes. Pour hot into sterilized jars and seal at once in a water bath for 20 minutes.