Pickled Beetroot

“He’s got twenty eight kilos that he has to get rid of by the end of the day, no questions asked. Can I put you down for a kilo?” Who finds themselves in possession of twenty eight kilos of julienned beetroot, possibly contraband? I’m not sure that I want to know the story, but I love a random ingredient. So I take a kilo.

The only thing you can do with that volume of beetroot, unless you’re on a salad diet, is to pickle it. I’ve never pickled anything in my life before. I know my Nanna used to pickle beetroot, but she used a pressure cooker. The stain left by a thermonuclear temperature jet of death dealing beetroot would still be on her kitchen ceiling if her house hadn’t been demolished by soulless developers. I don’t trust pressure cookers. Or developers. So I’m not doing it that way.

There appears to be the American way of pickling beetroot and the Australian way, so I take a recipe from the ABC Tasmania site and use that. Except because I have julienned beetroot I decide not to cook it. I think it would be great crunchy. First you have to sterilise your jars. I had to get down my second biggest stockpot for that.

I have 700 grams of beetroot as it turns out, so I reduced the recipe I found. Place in a non reactive saucepan 700 mls of white vinegar (I would have used a fancy apple cider vinegar or something, but I wanted to get these babies pickled while they were still fresh off the back of the truck), a scant three quarters of a cup of brown sugar, a bay leaf, half a cinnamon stick, six cloves, ten peppercorns, a bit under a teaspoon of allspice and a teaspoon of salt.

I heated that until it boiled, then covered it and let it simmer for a bit to extract those flavours. Meanwhile I managed to get the jars out of their boiling water bath without burning myself too badly. I packed the beetroot into them using tongs, trying to be all sterile and everything. They filled the jars neatly to the top with a bit of squashing. I let the pickling liquid sit for about quarter of an hour to cool down and infuse a bit more. I got the liquid into the jars using a funnel with a sieve in it.

The liquid wasn’t enough to fill the jars, curses curses. But while poking at the beetroot in frustration I found that it packed down quite a bit more in the warm liquid and there was enough after all, oh me of little faith.

I think you’re supposed to leave it for a couple of weeks alone with its thoughts, to mature and develop and a whole lot of other anthropomorphic stuff. But I couldn’t wait and had a taste today. It tastes like bought beetroot, only sparkly and crunchy and alive. Oh man, it’s good. We might have to have hamburger night very soon. Or it would go so well with rocket and walnuts and a soft feta, or goats cheese, and cracked pepper and a splash of olive oil. Maybe I should have got two kilos. I’d need to go to The Source then and buy some more jars. Oh the horror.