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You think making and canning your own sugar-free pickled beets is difficult or expensive? Not at all! You can do it with basic equipment already in your kitchen - you just need a canning pot (called a waterbath caner). And thanks to the vinegar in pickled beets, you can use either a plain open water bath pot or a Pressure Canner (which will also let you can low acid vegetables!)
So, here's how to can pickled beets! The directions are complete with instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. In the winter when you open a jar, the pickled beets will taste MUCH better than any store-bought canned pickled beets! For those of you looking to can "Harvard beets" (which are, essentially, pickled beets with cornstarch added to thicken the liquid), just make these pickled beets, then when you are ready server, heat them and add a little cornstarch. Cornstarch is not recommended for using in canning recipes due to its effect on heat transfer, so it is better to add it at serving time!
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.
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.
You can grow your own, pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. About 7 pounds of 2- to 21/2-inch diameter beets makes about 8 pints of pickled beets. I wouldn't use canned beets; what's the point: Most of the flavor is gone from them, and you can always get fresh beets.
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.
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.
Just take a sharp knife and trim off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color.
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.
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 (it would weaken the pickling solution).
You can pour ice over them, or just let them cool on their own. It's just to cool them enough so you can handle them to remove the skins, stems, roots and then slice or quarter them.
Trim off the roots and stems. The skins should easily slide off. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch slices. You can leave the beets whole (if they are small, say 1 inch or less), or quarter them or slice them into 1/4-inch slices. This is to help more fit in the jars and to help the seasoning to penetrate them better.
If you like onions in the mix (most people do), peel and thinly slice the onions.
Combine the vinegar, salt, sugar (or Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you will need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, if you need a no-sugar version) and fresh water in a large pot. Put the spices in cheesecloth bag and add to vinegar mixture. Bring to a boil.
Here's a great trick for the spices: get a baby food holder like this one, available at Target and any baby supplies store. It is made of plastic, and can hold the spices for easy removal later. It's reusable and has no metal, so it won't react with the vinegar!
Add beets and onions to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove the spice bag.
This is called "hot packing"! Fill the jars with beets and onions, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Pack the jars fairly tightly, but be sure to leave 1/2-inch of space at the TOP of the jar. That is called "headspace" and is needed for expansion during heating in the water bath.
Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with the hot vinegar solution, again allowing 1/2-inch headspace. The beets should be covered and there should still be 1/2 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!)
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").
Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner. Make sure the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water.
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. For most people, using a plain open water bath canner, the time will be 30 to 35 minutes. You can use either a plain water bath canner OR a pressure canner, since the vinegar adds so much acidity (if you can vegetables other than tomatoes without adding vinegar, you must use a pressure canner).
PROCESS TIMES (MIN) AT ALTITUDES OF:
|Canned Product||Style of Pack||Jar Size||0-1000 ft.||1001-3000 ft.||3001-6000 ft.||Above 6000 ft.|
|Pickled Beets||Hot||Pints or Quarts||30||35||40||45|
Recommended process time for beets in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Various Altitudes for Dial-Type Pressure Canners|
|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|
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!
Q. Is it safe to can pickled beets in a traditional water bath? If so how long do you do process them?
A. Yes! Pickled vegetables have added vinegar which adds acid and lowers the pH, making it safe to can in a water bath canner,(or a Pressure Canner) The table above provides the USDA and Ball recommended processing times for both a water bath canner and a Pressure Canner.
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