Deep magenta water is rolling over the pot of earthy Truro beets I picked up this morning at the Wellfleet Marketplace. The golden roots of last week are off the shelves, replaced by container upon container of their ruddy purple counterparts.
While I'm saving some for dinner, the rest I'm putting up with pickling spices. I called my mother for her recipe: 1 part sugar to 1 part vinegar for the pickling syrup, a pinch of salt, hot beets, and dill were her recommendation. With no dill to be found, I threw in a handful of black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, and cloves.
A half hour water bath is required to preserve the low acidity vegetable; any less and I fear my grandmother's stories of canning gone wrong will come back to haunt me.
Once the jars are sealed, I'll tuck them away alongside the rhubarb pie filling in anticipation of colder months. For now, I'll eat the magenta slices with greens.
Makes 2 quarts
Boil 2 quart jars in hot water for 10 minutes to sterilize. Put about 4 pounds beets on to boil; let cook until tender. In a separate pot, combine 2 and 1/2 cups white vinegar, 2 and 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds, and 1 tablespoon cloves. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil.
When beets are tender, drain and process. It is fine to dunk beets for a second in cold water, as they will be too hot to touch otherwise. Peel skins, cut off root and top. Slice, dice, or put whole into hot jars up to 1/2 inch below top. Pour boiling vinegar mixture to fill, leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
Wipe rims of jars with rag dipped in boiling water. Screw on sterilized lids. Put into boiling water bath for 30 minutes; let cool upside down overnight. Store for later.