pickled beets

by Michelle


This is the second post in my HOW TO PICKLE series. Whether you tried the pickled turnip or not doesn’t matter – not everybody would be interested in pickling a turnip. Pickled Beets are an old-time pickle favourite in my family. I remember driving for, what seemed like hours, with Nanny Ekstrom to buy her pickling supplies from a farmer friend who lived in Jemseg, New Brunswick. To this day, my mom swears the vegetables grown in this part of the St. John River Valley are superior to all other vegetables grown in New Brunswick due to the rich soil. For years, I made the same pilgrimage until I planted my own vegetable patch. Now, all I have to do is walk down to the front pasture…

One of the wonderful things about planting your own vegetable garden is being able to choose exactly the vegetable variety you want. To shorten the beet peeling process, I grow cylinder shaped beets rather than the typical round shape. I get five to six pickles from one beet. I love them. Another thing that I’ve found is the fresher the beets, the quicker they cook. Nanny would have to boil her beets for more than an hour. The beets in these photos only took twenty five minutes. Mind you, I’d pulled them out of the grown ten minutes before I put them on the stove.

Nanny was always particular about using tiny uniform-in-size beets. If she was going to the trouble of ‘putting up’ pickles, she wanted them to look perfect. She boiled her beets in a huge pickling kettle that sputtered and spat a pinkish brown mess all over the stove. My vivid memory is due to the fact it was my job to clean it up. Once the beets were fork tender, she and I would peel our way though the pot leaving our hands a stunning shade of neon purple!

Once your beets are fork tender, immediately drain off the boiling water and drop them into a large bowl of cold water. This causes the skin to release from the beet making peeling a snap. If your skins are not coming off easily, your beets aren’t cooked. To keep my hands from turning that charming shade of purple I remember from pickling with Nan, I wear disposable gloves while I’m peeling my beets. Last year, I thought that I was being clever by deciding NOT to peel my beets. Besides looking awful, my guests were left picking tough beet skin from their teeth!

Whether you use round or cylinder shaped beets, this recipe is simple to follow. If you have any problem at all, just shoot me a note.  The most important thing is to have fun!

pickled beets

6 – 500 ml jars

5 lbs fresh beets, greens removed leaving 2”
1 quart white vinegar
1 cup water
3 ½ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pickling spice
Whole cloves

pickled beets


  • Scrub beets to remove all soil.
  • Place in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  • Bring beets to the boil.
  • Reduce heat so that the beets cook in a soft boil.
  • Cook until fork tender. I’ve cooked beets anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour. You have to check!
  • When beets are fork tender, drain then place in cold water.
  • Working quickly, use your hands to slip off the skins then place the peeled beets in a medium bowl.
  • Slice beets into your favourite pickle size. I like mine chunky.
  • Sterilize your jars and lids, using the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • While the jars are heating, place vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Remove jars from oven and place on a clean tea towel.
  • Place 1/8 teaspoon of pickling spice and 2 whole cloves in the bottom of each jar
  • Fill jars with sliced beets leaving ½ “ from the top
  • Cover the beets with hot brine.
  • Wipe the rim of the jars then secure the lids and rings.
  • Store in a dark cool cupboard for one month before using.

pickled beets

THE LOVE: If you end up short on brine, make more as needed. The recipe can be reduced by half or quartered perfectly. There is no panic with this recipe. Just be sure that your jars are hot as you’re pouring in the boiled brine to ensure no cracks!

print recipe – I’ll add this option when I get home…

pickled beets

one year ago: cheesy herby tomato tart

two years ago: blackberry muffins

three years ago: dill pickles

pickled beets

Recipes should be shared. Feel free to share mine…

Thanks for reading.