Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to Read a Recipe: Pickled Roasted Beets

First off, I am going to present the recipe as I made it recently for a friend. She asked for a recipe for some pickled beets. Her preference is for the boiled beets and vinegar algorithm but I let her know that I was doing something just slightly more exotic. Here is that story.

Pickled Roasted Beets

Some quantity of beets (better to start small, in case you don't like it)
Vinegar to cover 
Mustard Seed
Bay Leaf

1. Take beets and clean off any surface dirt. Place in 400 degree oven until knife tender. I always throw in other veggies to roast at this time and take them out as they are done. If I'm cooking a chicken at high heat, sometimes sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, etc make their way there too.
2. Let cool until easy to handle. Remove skins. Some people swear by just rubbing the skins but I prefer to let them cool right down and take a sharp knife to 'em. There is something visceral in pulling apart a purple or red beet. If you are feeling in an April Fool's mood, you can yell ouch and ask your partner to count your fingers for you. Sometimes that doesn't go over so well. Cut the beets how you like them (strips, rounds, little round beet balls, whatever).
3. Take vinegar. Warm and add spices. If you mind spice pieces in your pickles, wrap the spices in muslin or use one of those tea infuser things. Once it is warmed, taste the liquid. Remember the beets won't be as intense and there is a sweetness to the beets. If you like the taste of the vinegar, then pour the liquid on them. Typically, I will use a mixture of different vinegars. Last time I did this recipe, I used cider vinegar and some scotch whisky vinegar.
4. Let it sit at least 24 hours. I find these quick pickles last two weeks easily, sometimes a little longer.

Veggie Variations: I like to roast the root vegetables to provide a sweet and sour variation. Other good candidates are: carrots, parsnips, onions, shallots, garlic, turnip and fennel. I suppose you could cut up veggies and do a quick blanch to provide a more al dente result. This works really well with onions if you don't like that sharp taste. Whenever I use onions in a raw preparation for my wife, I consider doing a quick blanch for her.

Vinegar Variations: Change up the vinegars or mix some together. Add a little balsamic to add sweetnees. If you like a sweeter pickle, add sugars. Some sugars have deeper flavours (jaggery, brown) which add different tastes. You could change the spices that you use. Use complimentary spices to the vegetable (cumin with carrots, cloves with onions).

Don't through that vinegar out! After the first use, there are other things that can be done.

  • Make another batch of pickles. 
  • Pickle hard-boiled eggs. This is especially cool if using beet vinegar.
  • Use the vinegar to make a vinaigrette.
  • Use vinegar in potato salad.
  • Make sauces. Sweet and sour sauce, BBQ sauce, and sauces for baked beans all use vinegar as a base.

I learned to do this because at the end of the spring, the only local produce that isn't brought up in a greenhouse are the root vegetables and wintered apples. I get sick of the same old roasted or boiled veggies. This is a pleasant change that has some sourness to brighten up those last hearty meals.


  1. Ever try making pickled carrots with jalapeƱo peppers or garlic? Quite excellent!!

    1. Yup. Love them. That's exactly the kind of mix and match that can be done with the type of recipe. You can char the carrots and jalapenos to give em a smoky flavour.