Tart and tangy in salads and sandwiches, pickled beetroot reminds us of hot summers and fruitful vegetable patches. A simple way to cope with a heavy harvest, or take advantage of low prices, pickling in vinegar preserves beetroot for months, without letting any of that delicious, healthy vegetable go to waste. Malt vinegar gives beetroot additional flavour when seasoned with a range of pickling spices. Vinegar is the preserving agent, so amounts of spices don't need to be exact, and leaving out one or two still gives a tasty result.
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Things you need
- Two large saucepans with lids
- 1.1 litres (2 pints) malt vinegar
- 8 g (1/4 ounce) each assorted spices such as cinnamon stick, mace blades, black peppercorns, allspice berries and mustard seeds, or just 55 g (2 ounces) each of allspice powder and whole black peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- 15 g (1/2 ounce) root ginger
- Chilli pepper
- Muslin bag or fine sieve
- Salt for boiling beetroots, 1 tbsp to 1.1 litres (2 pints) water
- 2 kg (4 1/2 pounds) small beetroots
- Pickling jars
Pour the malt vinegar into a large saucepan. Add the spices and cover with a lid. Heat gently until simmering.
Turn the heat off under the vinegar and spice mixture as soon as it starts to simmer. Leave it to cool down, which should take about 3 hours.
Strain the cooled spiced vinegar through a muslin bag or sieve. Leave to one side. Throw away the spice residue.
Make spiced vinegar
Wash the beetroots gently, removing all dirt. Avoid breaking their skins. You can cut out any blemishes later. Cook the beetroots whole in salted water for between one and two hours, until just cooked. Cooking time varies according to size. Test one beetroot after an hour, sliding a knife into its centre. Just-cooked beetroots feel a little resistant in the middle.
Drain cooked beetroots and leave them to cool down. Remove their skins by rubbing and sliding them off. They should come away easily.
Slice or dice beetroots about 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick, or leave small ones whole. Pack them, without forcing, into jars. Pour cold spiced vinegar over them until they're completely covered. Seal jars and label with contents and date.
Tips and warnings
- Make the spiced vinegar while you cook the beetroots to save time.
- Keep any leftover vinegar to use for more pickling or to make salad dressing.
- Store pickled beetroot out of sunlight to preserve its colour and flavour.
- Don't cut beetroots before cooking -- they bleed in water and lose their colouring.
- Don't leave beetroots uncovered by vinegar as they won't be preserved and could cause illness if eaten.
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