My mom says I’m an old soul. My friends say I’m an 80 year-old, trapped in a 24 year-old’s body. Personally, I think I’m just kind of boring.
I’ve never really liked parties. I refuse to jaywalk because I think it sets a bad example for little kids. My favourite clothes usually involve stretchy waistbands. I’ll take Cary Grant over Channing Tatum any day. And I own an inordinate amount of mason jars.
So yeah, I’m basically an 80-year-old. And did I mention that I pickle?
In my defense, pickling is, at least in my opinion, quite “in” right now. We’re getting back to our grandmother’s way of doing things, in reaction to the now-obvious negative effects of chemical preservatives. Plus, it just tastes so good! Seriously, have you ever had store-bought pickled beets? Gross. But home-pickled beets, well, they are simply amazing.
In my mind, pickled beets are synonymous with my grandmother’s cooking. Her cramped little kitchen must have reeked of vinegar for the entire months of September and October, because the rate that she pumped out pickled beets was truly extraordinary.
She had cupboards of them, which she would inevitably open up every December to select a jar suitable for my family’s Christmas dinner. Her beets were always the perfect balance of sweet and tart, earthy and punchy, with minimal aftertaste. She cornered the market on the perfect beet.
These beets are based on one of her original recipes, so they share that punchy-earthy flavour combination. But for my beets, I wanted to incorporate some exotic, warm spices into the mix, so I prepared the brine with some whole cinnamon, cloves and star anise, which gives it a really nice licorice taste. This warm blend of spices lends a Christmasy feel to them, making them a great gift idea for the holidays.
Spiced Pickled Beets
Makes 7 500-ml jars.
-Home canning kit (I got this one at Canadian Tire for $50. It has everything you need to get started, and has more than paid for itself with all the money I’ve saved in giving away jam and beets as Christmas gifts!)
-7 500-ml glass mason jars and lids, sanitized
-Measuring cups and spoons
2 lb to 3 lb beets
9 cups white pickling vinegar
6 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup kosher salt
8 to 9 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
2 1/2 to 3 tbsp whole cloves
1. In a large pot, boil beets until just fork-tender, about 30 minutes; do not over-boil. Drain, trim ends and peel away skin. Chop into desired size chunks (quartered or into 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes).
2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
3. Divide beets among jars. Pour vinegar mixture into jars, filling within 1/4 inch of rims. (NOTE: You may have some left over.) Remove air bubbles with a non-metallic wand and wipe rims with a clean dish cloth. Seal and place in canner with boiling water for 30 minutes. Carefully remove from canner and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours; seals will pop down during this time. If seals of any jars do not pop down, simply consume those beets within 3 to 4 days. Beets are best served cold.