I was thinking of my ex all day. My Volodya, who is now someone else's Volodya, and I, his Adster, loyal now to an Irishman. Instead of greeting the day with brown bread, Kerrygold, and Barry's tea, I thought of you, and played with beets. Had I not worried for my lad's reaction, I'd have toasted to you with a proper Vodka shot. Instead I saluted you, Volodya, and your mother's perfect Borscht, as I scrubbed, trimmed, sliced, pickled, canned, and simmered a batch of beautiful beets from the Motherland. My Motherland that is, aka the garden that overfloweth with beets at my mother's house. Apparently it only takes a pile of cow shit. In contrast, my fancy schmancy Chioggia beets hit the ground stalled and after spending 4 months in the ground as of last week, I relented and pulled the 1 inch in diameter sore losers from the ground. Denise's beets, however, were beauts. And she did nothing. NOTHING. In fact, she spent the last month cruising around the San Juans, island hopping, partying at my house, and working on her tan. Meanwhile, those luscious beets came forth and multiplied. Hallelujah for that. Perhaps the next time she sails through I'll reward her accidental green thumb with a jar of the Rosemary Pickled Beets that left my little claws stained pink as Borscht. Or perhaps I should barter for some Gojo.
So, here's the culprit for my lusting today. But first, a quick cautionary tale. I once heard a story of a man who loved the beetroot, so much that one evening with a gang of friends, he consumed everyone's portion of beet salad. The next day, after a brief interlude in the men's washroom, he was convinced he was dying of cancer - evidenced by a sudden onset of very red matter in his excrement and kool-aid tinted urine. His friend pulled some strings and an hour later he was rush admitted to a nearby elite cancer unit. After extensive testing, the man sat nervously sweating as the doctor arrived with the prognosis. A short, Indian man looked him square in the eye: "Did you eat the beetroot?". He paused, then repeated anxiously, "Did you eat the beet?".
Enjoy the beetroot!
Rosemary Pickled Beets
6 pounds beets, scrubbed
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons pickling salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 white onion, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 rosemary sprig
For each Jar
6 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig rosemary
Makes 7 pints.
Trim the beets by cutting off the stem and the root end. Place the beets in a nonreactive pot and cover with water. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until just tender. The timing will vary quite a bit depending on the size of your beets. My beets were on average about 4 inches thick, so think shorter for baby beets and longer for very mature beets. Remove from the water and run under cold water. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins. They should come off easily - if not, they may need longer to cook. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside in a bowl.
Bring vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, brown sugar, onion ginger, and rosemary to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
Place allspice, cinnamon stick, cloves, and reserved rosemary sprigs in each hot jar (you can sterilize by boiling in hot water for 10 minutes or run through the dishwasher). There is a plethora of great information on water bath canning methods on the web but I highly recommend Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved for her concise, modern approach.
Pack jars tightly with beets. I found that pounding them a bit (gently now!) on the wooden cutting board helped them to settle. Once packed, distribute the onions from the brine evenly over the top.
Pour boiling brine over the beets, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Make sure the contents are fully covered by the liquid.
Wipe the rims clean of any debris to ensure a proper seal. Simmer lids in boiling water for a few minutes to soften the rubber flange. Remove, and place lids on jars. Screw on bands only fingertip tight (this is so the steam can release during the canning process but nothing can get inside). Process using a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool on the counter. Store somewhere cool and dark for up to one year. I'd wait at least a week for them to season, before enjoying. Refrigerate after opening.
These are delicious served as an appetizer with Peppercorn Goat Cheese, or as a side dish with greek yogurt and onions. They are also tasty on sandwiches or on a burger.
I'm off to enjoy the second beet project of the day, Borscht. I used the recipe from Paley's Place Cookbook. We'll be having it for dinner tonight (cold) with a yogurt cucumber salad. I will not be thinking about my ex. Unless his mom's turns out to be better. Volodya, here's to you.