Pickled Beets

by Elspeth Hay

This recipe, which has always been a staple in my mother’s kitchen, comes from the book Putting Food By.


  • 4 lbs. beets, stem base and taproot on, carefully washed
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. cardamom seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. whole cloves
  • kosher/pickling salt to taste

Put the beets in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, 30-plus minutes, depending on the beets’ size. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, water, and spices in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. When the beets are tender, dunk them in cold water for just long enough to be able to handle them, then slip off their skins and trim away their roots, stems, and any blemishes. Leave the tiny beets whole; cut the larger ones into 1-inch dice. Pack the beets into hot, sterilized jars and pour the vinegar/sugar mixture over top, leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart to each jar. Wipe the rims of the jars with a rag dipped in boiling water and screw on sterilized lids. Put the jars into a boiling water bath for 30 minutes; then let them cool upside down on a dishcloth overnight. If all the seals are tight, store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

The authors recommend always canning beets over freezing them—they preserve beautifully, and they’re excellent plain or as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread. We like ours best in winter salads with plenty of goat cheese.