Canning Beets: How to can your own homemade canned beets (complete directions with photos )
This month's notes: April 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
How to Make Homemade Canned Beets
You think making and canning your own beets is difficult or expensive? Not at all! You can do it with basic equipment already in your kitchen - the only special equipment required is a pressure canner. So, here's how to can beets! The directions are complete with instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. In the winter when you open a jar, the beets will taste MUCH better than any store-bought canned beets! Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of about 12 months, and aside from storing in a cool, dark place, require no special attention.
One other important note: you will need a pressure canner. Beets are a low acid food, so you cannot use a boiling water bath canner. It must be a pressure canner. Pressure canners cost more than water bath canners, but they are more versatile and last a lifetime, and your children and grandchildren may be using it. I've had mine for 20 years and it looks good for another 50 years. See this page for more information about pressure canners.
See this FAQ for more details: Can I use a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner for low acid foods?
Directions for Making Canned Beets
- 7 to 8 lbs of Beets (see step 1)
- 1½ teaspoons canning or pickling salt
1 Pressure Canner (a large pressure pot with a lifting rack to sanitize the jars after filling about $75 to $200 at mall kitchen stores and "big box" stores, but it is cheaper online; see this page for more about pressure canners).
Ball jars (Publix, Kroger, other grocery stores and some "big box" stores carry them - about $7 per dozen pint jars including the lids and rings)
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
- Jar funnel ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)At least 1 large pot and 1 medium pot or saucepan
- Large spoons and ladles
Recipe and Directions
Step 1 - Selecting the beets
The most important step! You need beets that are FRESH and crisp. Limp, old beets will make nasty tasting canned beets. Guests will probably throw them at you.. Select firm, crisp beets. Remove and discard any soft, diseased, spotted and chewed up beets. Beets with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches are preferred for whole packs. Beets larger than 3 inches in diameter are often fibrous.
How many beets and where to get them
You can grow your own, pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. About 7 pounds of 2- to 2½-inch diameter beets makes about 8 pints of beets. An average of 21 pounds (without tops) is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 13-1/2 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel (without tops) weighs 52 pounds and yields 15 to 20 quarts--an average of 3 pounds per quart.
Step 2 - Prepare the jars and canner
Wash the jars and lids
This is a good time to get the jars ready! The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. Otherwise put the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. I just put the lids in a small pot of almost boiling water for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" (available from target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) to pull them out.
Get the canner heating up
Rinse out your canner, put the rack in the bottom, and fill it with hot tap water. (Of course, follow the instruction that came with the canner, if they are different). Put it on the stove over low heat just to get it heating up for later on. You can also get the large pot 2/3 filled with water boiling, and the saucepan with 6 quarts of water boiling too.
Step 3 - Trim the ends and cut into smaller pieces
Just take a sharp knife and trim off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color.
Step 4 -Wash the beets!
I'm sure you can figure out how to scrub the beets in plain cold or lukewarm water using your hands or a vegetable brush.
Step 5 - Cook the beets
Put similar sized beets (hopefully, they're ALL of a similar size so they take the same time to cook) together with enough boiling water to cover them and cook until tender (usually about 30 to 45 minutes in an open pot, or 10 - 15 minutes in a pressure cooker). Drain and discard the liquid.
Step 6 - Cool the beets
You can pour ice over them, or just let them cool on their own. It's just to coll them enough so you can handle them to remove the skins, stems, roots and then slice or quarter them.
Step 7 - Trim, peel and slice
Trim off the roots and stems. The skins should easily slide off. Slice the beets into ¼-inch slices. You can leave the beets whole (if they are small, say 1 inch or less), or cut medium or large beets into 1/2-inch cubes or slices. Halve or quarter very large slices.
Step 8 - Pack the beets in the canning jars
Fill the jars with beets and onions, leaving 3/4 to 1 inch headspace. Pack the jars fairly tightly, but be sure to leave 3/4 inch of space at the TOP of the jar. That is called "headspace" and is needed for expansion during heating in the water bath. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jar, if desired (I don't add salt - you can always add it at the table; it doesn't affect the preserving!)
Step 9 - Pour boiling cooking liquid into each packed jar
Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with fresh hot water, leaving 3/4 to 1-inch headspace. The beets should be covered and there should still be 3/4 inch of airspace left in the top of each jar. Be careful not to burn yourself, (or anyone else - children should be kept back during this step!)
Step 10 - Put the lids and rings on
Put the lids on each jar and seal them by putting a ring on and screwing it down snugly (but not with all your might, just "snug").
Step 11 - Put the jars in the canner and the lid on the canner (but still vented)
Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner. By now the water level has probably boiled down to 3 inches. If it is lower than that, add more hot tap water to the canner. When all the jars that the canner will hold are in, out on the lid and twist it into place, but leave the weight off (or valve open, if you have that type of pressure canner).
Step 12 - Let the canner vent steam for 10 minutes
Put the heat on high and let the steam escape through the vent for 10 minutes to purge the airspace inside the canner.
Step 13 - Put the weight on and let the pressure build
After 10 minutes of venting, put the weight on and close any openings to allow the pressure to build to 11 pounds.
Step 14 - Process in the pressure canner
if you have a dial-type pressure canner, like me, once the gauge hits 11 pounds, start your timer going - for 30 minutes for pint jars, 35 minutes for quart jars. Adjust the heat, as needed, to maintain 11 pounds of pressure.
Note: the chart below will help you determine the right processing time and pressure, if you have a different type of canner, or are above sea level.
It is important to learn how to operate your pressure canner by reading the owner's manual that came with your particular canner. If you cannot find your owner's manual, you can obtain find one online: Here is where to find some common manufacturer's manuals:
or by contacting the company that made your canner. Give the model number to the manufacturer, and they will send you the right manual. Click here for more information about pressure canners and a variety of models you can order.
Recommended process time for beets in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 2,000 ft||2,001 - 4,000 ft||4,001 - 6,000 ft||6,001 - 8,000 ft|
|Pints||30 min||11 lb||12 lb||13 lb||14 lb|
Recommended process time for beets in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 1,000 ft||Above 1,000 ft|
|Pints||30 min||10 lb||15 lb|
Step 15 - Turn off the heat and let it cool down
When the processing time from the chart above is up, turn off the heat, and allow the pressure canner to cool and the pressure to drop to zero before opening the canner. Let the jars cool without being jostled. After the pressure drops to zero (usually, you can tell but the "click" sound of the safety release vents opening, as well as but the gauge. Let the pressure in the canner drop to zero by itself. This may take 45 minutes in a 16-quart canner filled with jars and almost an hour in a 22-quart canner. If the vent is opened before the pressure drops to zero OR if the cooling is rushed by running cold water over the canner, liquid will be lost from the jars. Too rapid cooling causes loss of liquid in the jars!
Step 16 - Remove the jars
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool on a wooden cutting board or a towel, without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. You're done!
From left to right:
- Jar lifting tongs
helpful to pick up hot jars
- Lid lifter
- to remove lids from the pot
of hot water
- disposable - you may only
use them once
- holds the lids on the jar until after
the jars cool - then you don't need them
- Canning jar funnel
- to fill the jars
Frequently Asked Questions
- A visitor writes on September 01, 2013: "Last
night I canned my beets, but when I pulled them out of the pressure
cooker, it looked like they were white and the liquid was red. What
would of caused this. I am new to canning this year. So any tips
would be good! Thank you"
The red pigments in beets (betalaines) are sensitive to high temperatures and can transform into a colorless compound during canning. Some varieties are more sensitive than others. The reaction is reversible and often the color of the canned product will return to a darker red after a few days of storage at room temperature. The taste, safety and quality of the beets will not be affected.
Some people recommend that you leave two inches of stem and tap root attached to the beets before boiling to remove the skins. Then trim the stem and root and slice, dice or leave whole for canning.
- Is it safe to can beets in a traditional water bath? If so how
long do you do process them?
The answer, quite simply is no; you may not can beets in a boiling water bath (you MAY can "pickled beets" in a waterbath, but that is a different recipe!) Quoting from the Ohio State University Extension's Fact Sheet:"Pressure canning is the only safe method for home canning vegetables. Clostridium botulinum is the bacterium that causes botulism food poisoning in low-acid foods, such as vegetables. The bacterial spores are destroyed only when the vegetables are processed in a pressure canner at 240 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for the correct amount of time.
Clostridium botulinum is the bacterium commonly found in vegetables and meats. It is harmless until it finds itself in a moist, low-acid, oxygen-free environment or a partial vacuum. Under these conditions, the bacterium can grow and produce toxins dangerous to people and animals.
Do not process (low acid) vegetables using the boiling water bath because the botulinum bacteria can survive that method.
Can fruits and vegetables be canned without heating if aspirin is used? No. Aspirin should not be used in canning. It cannot be relied on to prevent spoilage or to give satisfactory products. Adequate heat treatment is the only safe procedure.
Is it safe to can beets in a boiling water bath if vinegar is used? No. Recommended processing methods must be used to assure safety. Recommended processing times cannot be shortened if vinegar is used in canning fresh vegetables. (This does not refer to pickled vegetables.)
Salt and sugar are not preservatives for vegetables: they are added to stabilize and improve flavor, but will not prevent spoilage.
Salicylic acid is also NOT a preservative. The University of Illinois reports:
Using Aspirin for Canning
Several years ago, a recipe circulated using aspirin to acidify tomatoes and beets for canning. Aspirin is not recommended for canning. While it contains salicylic acid, it does not sufficiently acidify tomatoes or beets for safe hot water bath canning. beets are low acid foods and may only be processed safely in a pressure canner. Lemon juice or vinegar is recommended to acidify tomato products for safe water bath processing.
Think of it like smoking. We all know someone who smoke their entire life and lived to be 90. But the cemeteries are filled with the vast majority who didn't. You'll hear people say "my grandmother did it that way for 20 years". But of course, the people who died from food poisoning aren't around and often didn't have descendants to tell their tale...
Lids, Rings, Jars, mixes, pectin, etc.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars? Or pectin to make jam, spaghetti sauce or salsa mix or pickle mixes? Get them all here, and usually at lower prices than your local store!
Get them all here at the best prices on the internet!
|BUT, with a pressure canner it's easy. And although a pressure canner costs $100 to $200 (see this page for pressure canners models, makes and prices), they last a lifetime, and your children and grandchildren may be using it. You can also find free information from the USDA in this PDF file (it will take a while to load!) about selecting and using canners here!|
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This page was updated on 11-Mar-2014