I have many fond memories from Daddy’s garden. Summers in the garden took over all of our senses: the taste of Daddy’s homegrown hard work, the feel of the hot sun shining down onto our shoulders, the smell of dirt after a Tennessee storm, and the image of Daddy headed to the garden with his wheelbarrow in tow for the annual pulling of the beets.
If you looked past the garden, into the house, you could find Mama readying the kitchen for a day of canning – making sure any vegetables not eaten that week would not go to waste. Pickled beets have always been a favorite of mine, but they are a labor of love.
Cleaning the beets is a messy job, done outside by hosing them down and cutting off the tops. Mama always intercepted Daddy’s wheelbarrow and finished scrubbing the beets clean before placing them into large pots to cook.
Long before the days of Mama and her kitchen operation, Grandma Rose used a large iron kettle over an open fire to cook her beets before canning.
The recipe below was made many times over in order to pickle this large amount of beets. Mama did not weigh or truly measure for the recipe. Though I had observed Mama and Grandmommie make these through the years, I had never made them myself until testing for my cookbook Servin’ Up Summer.
My favorite meal is beet pickles served with pinto beans and cornbread – a true old-fashioned relish tray is not complete without Sweet Beet Pickles.
1 1/2 pounds red beets (about 5 beets) 1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup beet water (see below)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Wash beets and cut tops, leaving 1 1/2 inch stem. This prevents beets from losing color while they boil. Leave the root also.
Place beets in a medium stockpot. Cover beets with water and boil for 45 to 60 minutes.
Beets are done when a fork inserted pierces easily.
Remove stockpot from heat and place beets in cold water, reserving 1 cup of beet water.
Remove the skins, stems, and roots, which will easily slip right off.
Cut larger beets into quarters and leave small beets whole. All should be approximately golf-ball size. Place prepared beets in medium glass or plastic container with lid and set aside.
In a saucepan add the vinegar, sugar, beet water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Pour hot liquid over the prepared beets; cover and chill at least 4 hours, or for best results, overnight.
Beets will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
You can find this recipe and many more summer favorites in Servin’ Up Summer available for purchase here. It’s my newest collection of recipes. Servin’ Up Summer includes my favorite summer dishes, cocktails, and desserts. It’s a taste of summer in the South on every page. Available now for only $29.95.