Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Freeze and Pickled Beets

We know it's coming. We're even pretty sure when it will hit. Nevertheless, the first frost is always a let down.

This week's share, which includes two pints of cherry tomatoes, summer squash/zucchini, cucumber, chard or kale, sorrel, potatoes, and a pickle-able quantity of beets and small onions, may be the last of the summertime produce. In fact, the Saturday shareholders may find that they are already seeing fall items this week.

We will use every trick up our sleeves to hold off the inevitable. So, who knows? Maybe there will be sungolds for next week's share too.

If not, everyone can join us as we begin our tour of the flavors of fall.

Scott harvested the first sweet potato today. As I type he is cooking it in a curry with eggplant, onion, tofu, and Thai basil. It looks like it should be a good harvest (at least the bed he checked looked very promising). Expect locally grown sweet potatoes in a share to come.

Seda, spearing curried sweet potatoes with her characteristic
dinner time intensity.

But, as always, I am focusing on things to come instead of the share at hand - and this week's share is worth focusing on.

First, the yukons are done, so we're giving out purple potatoes this week! Purple majesty potatoes to be exact. They are awesome boiled and mashed, with or without the skins, and doctored up with a bit of butter and/or flax seed oil (we prefer the combination), sea salt, and pepper. Apparently they contain massive quantities of antibiotics too, all the better!

They are also very good in potato salad. The other day I had an intense potato salad craving but not a lot of time. I chopped the potatoes into bite sized pieces, boiled them in salted water until they were fork tender and made a dressing using about 3/4 of a cup of mayonnaise, a generous squirt of flax seed oil, and one large clove of garlic, crushed. I combined the dressing with the potatoes - which were still warm, a chopped cucumber, and a finely chopped kale leaf. It was the world's simplest potato salad and seriously good. The flax seed oil gave the mayonnaise a nutty richness but I think it was the freshness of the potatoes that made it really great.

The thing that I am really excited about this week is the beets. I know the members already got a ton of beets this season and may not be feeling too excited about them but this week is different. We put together enough beets and onions for everyone to make a small (three pint) batch of pickled beets.

Many of you probably have experience pickling already, but we figured this small quantity would be a good start for those of you that haven't ever pickled. If you don't want to worry about canning, it is also a good quantity for a batch of refrigerator pickles.

If you just hate pickled beets, try making borscht instead. The options for borscht making are endless. If you want to go for borscht, start with the beets, add a good stock, and get creative. Here's the borscht wiki to get your juices flowing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht

Pickled Beets

This is our favorite recipe for pickled beets. It is very sweet and a little unusual with the slight citrus flavor of coriander. After we eat a jar, we love the leftover pickling liquid as a base for salad dressings.  This recipe is written for the quantity of beets and onions in the shares this week, and should make about three pints (6 cups) of pickles. Also, I know the pickling will require some extreme onion peeling. Try blanching the onions first, the peels should slip off after that.
  • 2 pints beets (the amount in the share)
  • 1 pint pearl onions (again, the amount in the share)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seed per jar
  1. Peel onions, carefully wash beets but do not peel them. Slice any particularly large beets or onions in half.
  2. Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Meanwhile add 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed to each of three sterilized pint jars (sterilize jars by boiling for ten minutes). Pack the onions evenly between the jars, then pack the jars with the beets.
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beets, cap with two piece canning lids, take care not to over tighten the rings, and boil in a boiling water canner* for twenty minutes. This is an unusually long time to boil pint sized jars for canning, but the beets were not cooked before going into the canner so this is when they become tender.
  5. If you do not want to can the pickles, simply boil the beets and onions in the pickling liquid with 6 teaspoons coriander and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed for about 20 minutes before putting the whole works in the refrigerator in a covered, non-reactive container.
  6. The beets will keep for a year canned, a month in the refrigerator.
* If you are not familiar with the term, a boiling water canner is a large pot full of enough boiling water to cover your jars by at least one inch.



  1. I'm excited for the beets! I've been wanting to pickle some all summer but have never had enough. Thanks, looking forward to this week's share!

  2. Glad you're looking forward to it. It's a pretty small batch for pickling, but we're giving out all the beets we've got! Enjoy them :)