Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's All about the Beets

This week was all about beetroot.

I had been accumulating quite a few bags of beetroot thanks to our weekly CSA. This week I tackled it, making pickled beets and Russian borscht. I won't know how the pickles taste for a few weeks, since they need time to marinate. I discovered as I was slicing the beets to put in the jars that some of them hadn't cooked right through, so I'm somewhat curious to see what will happen. The borscht, on the other hand, I could eat right away. Always tasty.

Here are the recipes I used.

Basic Pickled Beetroot
Made 3 20-oz (600mL) jars

4 lbs (1.8 kg) beetroot
3 cups (750 mL) white vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) filtered water
1 cup (250 mL) 'white' cane sugar
3-4 Tbs (45-60 mL) pickling spice mix

Wash jars and lids. Put jars upright into a pan of water so that the jars are completely covered by the water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to heat to keep water hot but not boiling.

Meanwhile, put whole, unpeeled beetroot into a saucepan of water. Bring water to a boil and cook until the beets are tender. if you have different sizes of beetroot, you may want to sort them by size into different saucepans.

As the beets are cooking prepare the pickling mix. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add the spice mix. (I just add them directly to the liquid, but some people prefer to tie the spices in a spice bag that they can remove before putting the liquid into the jars. The choice is yours.) Cover and boil gently for 15 minutes.

When the beets are done, drain and rinse in cold water. Remove the top and tap root, and slip off the skin. If the skin doesn't slip off easily, scrape it off. Slice or quarter the beetroot.

Put jar lids (not rims) into hot (not boiling water) until ready to use.

Remove a jar from water bath. Using a canning funnel, fill the jar with beetroot to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top. Next add hot pickling mix to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the top, so that it completely cover the beets. Wipe the rim of the jar if necessary, put the lid on it, and gently screw the rim on. Do not overtighten. Repeat for next jar.

Can by putting the jars back into the hot water (keep the jars upright), making sure that there is at least 1 inch (2 cm) of water above the top of the jars, bringing the water to a boil, and boiling the jars for 30 minutes. Remove the jars, always keeping the upright, and allow them to cool, undisturbed, on the counter for 24 hours. You should here (and see) the lids 'pop' down in the centre, indicating that the jar is sealed.

For more information on canning, go here. Actually, go there and rad the safety info on canning before you start the process.

I used 3 big jars (old pasta sauce jars) for this recipe, but it could easily be done with 6-8 8 oz (250 mL) jars.

Russian Borscht
Serves 4-6

There are as many recipes for borscht as regions in eastern Europe. This is my own recipe adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook based on borscht served to me at a variety of restaurants and the homes of eastern European friends.

1 cup sliced or diced potato
1-2 lbs of beetroot
4 cups water
2 Tbs oil or butter
1 1/2 cups of onion, sliced or diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2-4 cups of shredded cabbage
1 tsp caraway seeds
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1 tsp dill or 1/2 cup fresh
1-2 Tbs cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 Tbs honey (or maple syrup)
1 cup crushed tomatoes or low-sodium tomato or vegetable juice

Scrub beetroot and place in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil and cook beets until tender.

as the beets are boiling, heat oil or melt butter in a large saucepan. add the onions and caraway seeds. Cook until the onions are tender. Then add the carrots, potato, cabbage and the cooking water from the beetroot. (At this point the beetroot should be cooked.) Cook until the veggies are tender.

Rinse beets in cold water. Remove the top and tap root, and slip off the skin. If the skin doesn't slip off easily, scrape it off. Slice and dice (I use a combination of both) the beetroot. Add to the soup pot.

Add the dill, salt and pepper, vinegar or lemon juice, honey and crushed tomato. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. taste occasionally to adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot, garnished with yogourt or sour cream and dill.

The quantities on this recipe are pretty loose.If you like a real beety borscht, use more beetroot. If you love cabbage in borscht, use more, if not use less.