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If you have a small amount of garden space and need a crop that is versatile, beets should be your crop of choice.
Growing Beets for Farmers Markets and Restaurants
We have found that restaurants love to use the "baby" leaves in different types of recipes. You can grow the beets all year so, there is a reliable crop to provide your markets. The larger leaves are used in about he same way as Chard.
The type of beet/s we grow to sell is Detroit and sometimes Golden. Detroit is dependable while Golden is "gourmet." The size of the beet depends on your customer. Some restaurants prefer the "baby" beet while others want a larger beet to slice and quick pickle. Farmers Markets are usually individuals that are looking for a "pickling" size.
Pickled Beets Recipe
This is a very simple recipe that can take on spices of your choosing —this is just a base to begin with.
• 4 lbs. medium size beets
• 2 cups water (or reserved beet water/infusion)
• 2 cups sugar (depends on your "sweet" preference)
• 2 cups white distilled vinegar
• 2 tsp Pickling Spices (you can buy this at the store OR make your own).
First, I wash all the beets with a vegetable brush before putting into water to boil. The reason is I save and reserve the beet water/infusion afterwards.
After washing beets, put into large stock pot (I use stainless) and cover with water. Put on Med/Hi to Hi heat. Cook at least 25 min. after coming to a boil...until "fork tender". When ready either take beets out of water and put into colander or drain liquid off into a container (if you decide to SAVE the beet water/infusion).
Now you can peel/pull skins away from the beets...may need to use a knife some especially around the "neck" of the beet to clean it up more. I always peel my beets before I cut them. You can choose, if small enough, to just can the beets whole. If not, slice.
While I'm slicing my beets, I have another stainless pot on the stove heating my water (or infusion from another batch), sugar, vinegar and spices on Med/Hi to Hi heat. Most recipes suggest putting spices in a cheesecloth and then taking out before using liquid. I put my spices directily into the mixture and keep them IN the liquid. Bring to boil and simmer about 10 minutes.
Have cans ready. I heat mine in the oven before filling each jar. I do one jar at a time. I layer the beets and then cover with the "brine" and use a small spatula to remove air bubbles. Wipe rims and put lids on and tighten. Set on a towel until they seal and cool before moving. And No, I don't use a water bath for my beets.
How to Use Beet Infusion
Now, what to do with that reserved beet infusion!
You can put the beet infusion, when cool, directly into containers and freeze for later use. You can also go one step further and add spices to it and bring to a boil and can the spiced liquid for use later.
This spiced liquid can be used to do a "quick pickle", pickle hard boiled eggs and pickle cabbage.
The peels can be dried and used as natural dye or in paper making! They can also be fed to goats and chickens.
*Please note: This is the recipe we use on our Homestead. We do not make beet pickles to sell. If you are interested in selling pickles at market check your local state rules and regulations. In our area, Western North Carolina, you must go through a "Pickling/Fermentation" class given by the Cooperative Extension Agency before producing and selling pickled/fermented products.
Susan Tipton-Fox continues the farming and preserving practices that had been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, North Carolina, and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm (extending the farm experience). Find Susan on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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