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Pickled Beets

Pickled beets charm in salad preparations, lending color, texture and their signature flavor. Try them layered with fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil, or tossed with arugula and garnished with ricotta salata (see related recipe at left). Or eat these beets straight from the jar. Any beet variety, from red to gold to red-and-white-striped Chioggias, can be used.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 16


  • 1 lb. beets
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar (5 percent acidity)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 Tbs. cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbs. whole cloves
  • Pinch of salt


Have ready 4 hot, sterilized one-pint jars and their lids.

Put the beets into a large saucepan (if using different-colored beets, separate them into 2 saucepans) and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer until the beets are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the beets, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

When the cooked beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick. Divide the beet slices and the onion slices among the jars.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved cooking liquid, the vinegar, sugar, cardamom, cloves and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring, just until the sugar is dissolved.

Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, evenly distributing the spices and leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust the headspace, if necessary. Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with the lids.

Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 7 minutes. Let the jars stand undisturbed for 24 hours and then set them aside for 1 week for the flavors to develop. The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. If a seal has failed, store the jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 4 one-pint jars.

Adapted from The Art of Preserving, by Lisa Atwood, Rebecca Courchesne & Rick Field (Weldon Owen, 2010).