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Beets grow great in a northern garden. Most root crops do – if you are new to gardening, planting a lot of root crops will mean you have lots of potatoes, onions, beets and turnips. They aren’t hard to grow and you can get a lot of food tucked away in your cold room for eating all year round.
Beets can be planted in early spring and then thinned as they are growing. I like to seed heavily and then thin – it helps to keep the weeds down as there isn’t much room for them to grow inside the rows.
Beets grow in clusters from the seed, so even if you plant lightly, you will still need to thin. But someone here just loves beets and seriously cannot get enough of them!
I always want as many beets as I can possibly get. And when the beets are still small, I go into the garden to thin them. I usually have 2 rows of beets planted and by thinning the small ones out, there is more room for the rest of them to grow larger.
I usually end up with a laundry basket full of thinnings. After I cut and wash all the beet tops, I stuff them in the fridge. We often end up with two huge plastic bags of green! We use the leaves both for salads and steamed greens.
I like to leave thinning the beets until the roots are large enough to make Pickled Beets from them. Let your plants grow so you can benefit from both ends – leaves for greens and roots for pickling!
How to Make Pickled Beets:
10 cups prepared beets
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp pickling spice
Scrub beets (I always leave the root complete at the bottom and leave about 2 inches of greens above – this helps lessen the bleeding.)
Put them in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until tender – drain them and then dump them in a sink of cold water. Now I slip their skins off. You’ll find the tops just slip right off, and usually the tap root does too.
While the beets are cooking, get your liquid ready.
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and pickling spices in a pan, bring to a boil and, then gently simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile put mason jars into your boiling water bath and let them sit for about 10 minutes. I like to use pint jars for Pickled Beets, as we can usually finish off an opened pint jar fairly quickly. If I used quart jars, the opened jar may end up sitting for months in the fridge.
Not that there is anything wrong with that – use whatever size jars you like. If you have a large family, quart jars would likely work better for you.
I heat water in the kettle and pour it over the canning seals, which I have put in a bowl. I put mine in tops and bottoms alternating, as I find it makes it a bit easier to pick them up one by one later on. It’s important that the seals have been warmed up before setting them on top of the jars.
Once I have the skins slipped on the beets, I put them into pint canning jars. If you use a funnel, it saves on drips. Buy yourself a canning funnel – it has a very wide mouth and it will sit in pint or quart jars perfectly. It saves a lot of mess.
Add the liquid mixture to each jar, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom. Wipe the lid of each jar clean, put on a seal and a ring.
Put your jars into the boiling water bath for 35 minutes (for us, check your altitude). Make sure the water is above the tops of jars!
After the time is up, remove them to your countertop and leave them alone for 24 hours. This is an important part of the canning process. Don’t move the jars around and don’t knock the jar seals, trying to see if they have sealed.
Set aside a part of your countertop that you can put the jars and just leave them there. No drafts, either, so if you have them near an open window, lay a towel over top of the jars to keep them out of the draft.
Soon, you should hear a pinging sound. This is the lid sealing fully to the jar. I used to count each ping, knowing how many jars I had put in the canner. I don’t bother doing that now.
What I do now is, after 24 hours is up, I tap lightly on each jar top. I can tell the sound of a sealed top and an unsealed top. You will too, once you do more canning. The tops of sealed jars will curve downward, but do the tapping test and be sure.
If a jar hasn’t sealed, I can either reprocess it or just put it in the fridge and be sure to use it up first.
This is an easy way to put some food by. Stock up your pantry with foods like this and enjoy them all year. Another bonus of thinning the beets is, that come the end of summer, we will have lots of larger beets in the garden.
We can harvest those and pressure can jars of beets. Those jars of beets in the photo above have been pressure canned.
Usually, if you make Pickled anything, you can use a water bath canner for the canning. If we want to have jars of beets on hand (Not pickled) then we need to pull out the pressure canner.
Never guess when it comes to canning. Always be sure before you start that you are using the right process.
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