How to preserve beets

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beets

What’s the number one rule of preserving beets? They must be processed in a pressure canner.

Due to their low acidity, root vegetables like beets, carrots, turnips and rutabagas can’t be canned safely in a boiling water bath or atmospheric steam canner. Only acidified vegetables, such as pickled beets, can be processed in a water bath or atmospheric steam canner.

Now that you know the first, most important rule of preserving beets, use the following tips to produce quality canned, pickled and frozen beets that are optimized for prolonged storage.

Recommended beet varieties

These beet varieties work best for canning:

  • Detroit Dark Red
  • Cylindra, Ruby Queen
  • Red Ace
  • Red Cloud
  • Golden

These beet varieties work best for pickling:

  • Chioggia (striped)
  • Albino (white)

These beet varieties work best for freezing:

  • Albino
  • Early Wonder

Quality and quantity

When selecting beets to preserve stick to deep, uniformly red, young, tender beets. Ideally, you want to choose beets with a diameter of 1 to 1 1/2 inches.

According to Penn State University Extension, 1 pound of beets without tops yields 2 cups of diced, peeled beets. In other words, you need about 1 pound of beets for every pint you want to can and preserve or 2 pounds for every quart.

Preparation

After you’ve harvested your beets, you’ll need to prepare them to be canned, frozen or pickled. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Cutting off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and root to reduce color loss.
  2. Scrub beets well.
  3. Cover beets with boiling water.
  4. Boil until skins slip off easily. This takes about 15 to 25 minutes for canning beets, depending on size.  For beets intended for freezing or pickling, cook until tender. This takes about 25 to 30 minutes for small beets and 45 to 50 minutes for medium beets.

Pro tip: Disposable gloves may be worn to prevent staining of hands.

Freezing beets

  1. Cool cooked beets promptly in cold water.
  2. Remove stem and taproot and slip off skins.
  3. Cut into slices or cubes.
  4. Fill pint or quart zip-type plastic freezer bags or plastic freezer containers. Be sure to remove as much air as possible from freezer bags and allow a 1/2 inch of headspace in plastic containers.
  5. Seal, label and freeze.

Pro tip: You might also try freezing the beets and then packaging them. This method ensures the beets remain looser, which allows you to measure out desired amounts in the future.

  1. Spread beets in a single layer on shallow trays or pans.
  2. Place in the freezer only long enough to freeze firm.
  3. Check often after the first hour to avoid loss of moisture.
  4. When beets are firmly frozen, package and seal, leaving no headspace.

Canning beets

  1. Cool cooked beets promptly in cold water, remove skins and trim off root and stem.
  2. For canning, leave baby beets whole. Cut medium or large beets into 1/2-inch cubes or slices. Halve or quarter very large slices.
  3. Pack prepared beets into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head-space.
  4. If desired, add up to 1 teaspoon of canning or pickling salt per quart or ½ teaspoon per pint.
  5. Fill the jar to 1 inch from the top with fresh boiling water — not the water you used to cook the beets.
  6. Remove air bubbles.
  7. Wipe jar rims with a clean damp paper towel.
  8. Tighten down lids with screw bands.
  9. Process in a pressure canner. Pints will take 30 minutes and quarts will take 35 minutes in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure or in a weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure.
  10. After the jars have been processed, remove them from the pressure canner and place them on dry towels or a wooden board to cool. It should take about 12 to 24 hours.
  11. Remove screw bands and check lid seals.
  12. If the center of the lid is indented, wash, dry, label and store the beets in a clean cool dark place. For jars with lids that did not seal correctly, use a new lid and reprocess pr refrigerate and consume within three days.

Pro tip: Don’t be alarmed if your beets turn pale during the canning process. The pigments in beets are sensitive to high temperatures, causing them to turn into a colorless compound during canning. Their color will often return to a darker red after a few days of storage at room temperature.

Pickling beets

  1. Drain and cool 7 pounds of cooked beets.
  2. Trim off roots and stems, and slip off skins.
  3. Slice into ¼-inch slices or use whole beets that are 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  4. Peel and thinly slice 4 to 6 onions.
  5. In a pot, combine 4 cups vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt,  2 cups sugar and 2 cups water.
  6. Put 2 cinnamon sticks and 12 whole cloves into a cheesecloth bag and add to the vinegar mixture.
  7. Bring to a boil.
  8. Add beets and onions.
  9. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove cheesecloth bag.
  11. Fill jars with beets and onions, leaving ½ inch of headspace.
  12. Add the hot vinegar solution, allowing ½ inch of headspace.
  13. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.
  14. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel.
  15. Tighten down lids with screw bands.
  16. Process pints or quarts for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath or an atmospheric steam canner. At altitudes of 1,001 to 3,000 feet process for 35 minutes; at 3,001 to 6,000 feet process for 40 minutes; at altitudes over 6,000 feet process for 45 minutes, according to Penn State University.

Pro tip: This recipe yields about 8 pints of pickled beets.

Storage

Canned beets are safe to consume as long as lids remain vacuum sealed, but are best if consumed within a year.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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