This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

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Golden Beets Pickled with Ginger

Today's new favorite thing is golden beets.

The word "beets" is so humble that it puts me in mind of downtrodden peasants in a cold hut. Pairing it with the regal adjective "golden" sounds preposterous. But these wonderful root vegetables rise above their name. They are sheer pleasure to work with—just look at the color, ABOVE —and they have an unexpectedly refined flavor.

I love classic pickled beets—the red ones, which were a dinnertime staple at Gran and Pappaw's table—and  for a while now I've fancied pickling golden beets with ginger because ginger tastes yellow. They're an obvious match. The only question was which vinegar to use and how to flavor the syrup. I settled on cider vinegar for its gentle piquancy and mild apple-y taste, and then pulled out the normal array of pickling spices—cinnamon, cloves, all spice etc—to support the ginger. In putting together this recipe, I relied on the indispensable Linda Ziedrich for fundamentals like how far the vinegar can be diluted before losing its preservative effect. Then I threw in pinches of this and that, counted the floaters and made slight adjustments. Still, if you compare the below recipe to any standard recipe for pickled beets, you'll see that I'm within well-established parameters.

Pickles have to sit for a couple of weeks before you taste them since the vinegar needs time to penetrate the vegetable, so I won't be able to report definitive results until next month. But I'm confident enough to lay out the recipe right here and now: the naked beets were delicious on their own, and the syrup is delicate and balanced. I tasted it once, then I tasted it twice. And then I drank a spoonful. The sum of that combination can't be less than its parts.


8 bunches small golden beets
8 cups cider vinegar (I used the French brand Beaufort)
2 cups water
a thumb of ginger root, maybe 2 inches, sliced
12 cloves
12 all spice berries
2 cinnamon sticks (maybe three inches each)
2 cardamon pods
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (Ziedrich's idea to boost the flavor)

1 Trim the beets and boil under tender, about 30 minutes.

2 While they're cooking, prepare the syrup by combining the rest of the ingredients in a pot and bringing to a slow boil. Simmer for a few minutes then turn off heat.

3 When beets are tender, plunge them into ice water, slip them out of their skins and neatly trim the root and leaf ends.

4 Halve or quarter the beets, depending on size, and pack into pint jars. Return syrup to a boil and ladle into jars through a fine-mesh strainer (to catch the spices.) Wipe the rims and seal. Process in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes.

8 bunches beets yielded 6 pints.
4 x pint
1 x quart

8 cups of vinegar yielded almost an extra pint of syrup, which means that this recipe could work for as much as 10 bunches of beets. (I know that a "bunch" in an inaccurate estimate.) After tasting the syrup, it doesn't seem to me crazy to think about using champagne vinegar instead of cider vinegar. The golden beets would be gorgeous in the pale liquid.

Reader Comments (5)

I tried this recipe today, alongside red beets pickled using a typical pickle spice mix. Didn't have cardamom pods but otherwise followed directions. It looks good so far!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

Lisa -- thanks so much for your comment. a friend of mine just gave me a neat tip the other day -- he said the secret to red pickled beets is star anise -- i've never tried it but it sounds great, don't you think? best, kevin

October 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterKevin West

I just made my first ever batch of pickled beets today. And I can't wait for next week's farmer's market so that I can try this recipe! It sounds amazing. I love ginger, I love beets. How can they not be awesome together?!?!

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara

This looks really great - I may have to make some from the delicious beets we've been getting in our winter CSA box. But I had a quick question - do you have a rough idea of how many pounds of beets you had? A bunch of beets could be anywhere from 3/4 lb to 3 or 4 lbs - I don't want to goof! Thanks...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkristen

hi kristen --

thanks for the comment -- yeah, that's pretty vague, isn't it. usually you can roughly plan for a pound of contents per pint jar. in that recipe above, 8 bunches of small-to-medium beets made six pints, but then beets are pretty dense. so i probably used about 8-ish pounds of beets. also as i noted, i had a bunch of extra syrup. so...i think this recipe could do 10 pounds of beets and maybe even a few more.

if you think of it later, could you post your results here or just email them to me via the "contact" tab at the top of this blog? i'd love to hear how it the amounts work out for you -- maybe i'll need to tinker with the recipe above based on how many pounds of beets it does for you --

all the best,
kevin west

December 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterKevin West

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