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The Recipe Vault #4: pickled beets


At a certain point during my childhood, my mother made pickled beets every year, jars and jars and more jars of pickled beets, more pickled beets than a family of 5 could consume in a lifetime. Let me say up front that I never liked them, not one bit. In fact they ruined beets for me for most of my life. I couldn’t even stand the smell of the cursed things.

These days I can enjoy beets from time to time – not so much that I want to eat them regularly, but a couple-two-three times each year, no problem. I suspect if it weren’t for pickled beets in my childhood, I might have even grown to like them a lot.

We had a cold cellar, which was underneath the front porch of our home. There were shelves around the walls and they were always loaded with preserves, including jars of tomato sauce, peaches in a sugar syrup, a weird concoction involving plums from the back yard tree and alcohol, dill pickles and bread and butter pickles too – and lots and lots of pickled beets. The thing is, I don’t remember (or I choose not to remember) anybody actually eating them.

As a kid I suspected that mom made pickled beets not because anybody in the family liked to eat them but as a kind of carry-over from life in Poland (even though my mom came over from the old country as a child). I’m not against carrying on traditions but I prefer the cabbage roll tradition to the pickled beet tradition by a long shot.




  1. This explains why I didn’t enjoy spinach until adulthood. Mom also tried to pass off parsnips as white carrots when I was a kid in an effort to get finicky me to eat them. Who would know I would eventually become a person who likes a vast variety of foods.

  2. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    Hardly anybody eats beets anymore for 2 sort of lame reasons. First you have to pretty much boil them until tender before you do anything with them and that takes some time so people resist beets. The second reason is that if you eat beets you are going to poop red.

    Beets are much more popular with serious vegetable gardeners than they are with the folks who visit grocery stores to buy frozen macaroni and cheese because they dont want to bother with cooking their own macaroni. Fresh young beet roots are a tasty sweet change from potatoes or rice. I said beet roots because there is more to the beet plant than the roots. Beets are a member of the same family as Swiss Chard and spinach and in fact chard isnt much more than a beet plant that doesnt make an edible root. When the beet plant gets big enough that you can start harvesting roots gardeners will start harvesting beet tops and cooking them in all the same ways as you would chard. For absolute certain you have eaten beet tops often as they were a staple in mom’s cooking. To shield the kids from the horrible knowledge that they were eating beet tops she simply called it spinach and about 75% of the spinach she served was in fact beet tops. Some varieties of beets produce tops that have a strong red color to them and mom called this stuff ruby spinach and dad’s vegetable garden always included lots of beets. When the beet plants are quite young you can also steal a few tender young leaves for salads which are hard to distinguish from baby spinach. Late harvested beets will keep all winter in a proper cold cellar. Pickling beets was the other way to make use of their vitamins and nutrition. They are one of the easiest things to pickle and have become a staple with families with a European background although maybe not so much with the frozen tv dinner crowd. I liked mom’s pickled beets and so did mom and dad and mom’s bread and butter pickles were simply awesome.

    In passing I will note that one of the best beet recipe’s ever was Harold’s Tarragon beet recipe. Really nice.

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