Easy Pickled Beets...and more!

Beets are at their best right now - a wonderful balance where the root is plump and sweet while the greens are still a tender, delightful stand-in for spinach. Here's how to make some easy, no-canning-required pickled beets, while getting greens and beetroot to enjoy as vegetables at the same time.

Part One - Preparing the Beets

A stainless steel bow holds two bunches of beets. The beets are washed, but still have their greens attached. End photo ID.

First, you'll need to prepare your beets. Roll the elastic up on the stalks, put the beets in a shallow pan of water and scrub them with a brush until clean.

A close-up shot of the beets with greens removed on a wooden cutting board. A left hand holds a beet, while the right holds a knife in mid-process of cutting the root ends off a beet root. End photo ID.
On a white Formica table is a bamboo cutting board with beets on it. A hand holds a beet by the greens to separate the greens from the beetroot. In the foreground are two beets with their greens removed. End photo ID.

Next, cut the greens from the root, leaving a little behind, and trim the long root off the other end.. Don't throw out the greens! (We'll talk about that later.)

The easiest way to prepare beets - whether for pickling or for a side dish - is in the oven. Put your trimmed beets in a shallow baking pan, add half a cup of water, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Pop the pan into the oven at 350F for an hour or so, until the beets are tender (the time may vary depending on the size of beets.)

Allow the beets to cool until you can handle them. The skins will easily slip off. (Wear gloves to keep from staining your hands.) With the beets cooked, they're ready to slice and eat or use in recipes.

Sliced roasted beets are on a ceramic plate. On the left are golden beets and on the right are classic red beets. End photo ID.

Part Two - Easy Pickled Beets - No Canning Required

4 cups water

1 cup white or cider vinegar

3 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 pint-sized canning jars

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves (optional)

3 small bay leaves

4 or 5 medium beets, cooked and skinned, sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

Combine the water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the salt dissolves. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put a bay leaf and a third of the cloves in the bottom of each pint jar. Add a thin layer of sliced onions, then add sliced beets until the jar is half full. Add another layer of sliced onions, and then add more sliced beets until they are within half an inch of the brim.

Finish by pouring brine over the beets until they are covered. Run a butter knife along the inside of each jar along the glass to release any trapped air bubbles and add more brine to keep the beets submerged if necessary. Cap the jars and place them in the refrigerator.

They'll be ready to eat in three days, but they'll be best after about a week. They keep quite a while (about 3 months) in the fridge, but you'll probably have eaten them all before then.

Three finished pint jars of pickled beets against a wooden backdrop. End photo ID.

Part Three - Those Beet Greens

Beet greens are a great alternative for spinach as a side dish, and you can also use them as a spinach substitute in recipes like spinach lasagna or spinach bread.

If the stems are tough, trim them back close to the leaf. Melt a knob of butter in a skillet and, when the butter is foamy, add the greens. Stir and wilt them, and don't add any additional water - they release plenty of their own (maybe even more than spinach.) Let them simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and most of the water cooks off. Season with a little salt and serve.

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