I spent last week in Roanoke, where I did my taxes, hung out with some Ministry Chix, soaked up mountain views and spent time with a bunch of family. I also convinced my mom to teach me how to can pickled beets.
In my mid-thirties, I am suddenly experiencing this deep-seated curiosity about all those domestic arts that I never really learned or cared about when I was…supposed to. Sure, I learned how to frost a cake in Home Ec, and I know how to fold a fitted sheet (but I never do it). I am perfectly capable of keeping myself clean, clothed and fed, and I could probably handle doing all that for a couple of other human beings if I needed to. But none of these things have ever held much intrigue until now. All of a sudden, I want to learn to can and quilt and pickle and bake and embroider.
What is that? Some latent biological need rearing its ugly head? The effect of grounding my decade-long jet-setting lifestyle? The unintended consequence of adopting a(n incredibly adorable) dog?
Who knows. But I am in the market for acquiring these arts, and my mom agreed to teach me to can.
Turns out, it’s ridiculously easy. Time consuming, but easy.
I was inspired by this article about preserving things, and for whatever reason (possibly that roasted beet-quinoa-citrus salad I keep ordering at Panera?), I fixated on the Kickin’ Pickled Beets.
I Snapchatted the entire adventure, and now I’m blogging it. What am I, some kind of lifestyle blogger, now?
First: roast the beets. When I told Facebook that I was embarking upon this adventure, a friend sent the recipe she uses, originally from one of my favorite former church people. The notes on that classic advised to cut the greens off the beets, leaving a bit of stem to retain the best flavor. Done. Pour water in the bottom of the dish – just 1/4 of an inch. Roast for 45-55 minutes at 350. My beets weren’t quite done at 50 minutes – the skin did not slip off as easily as recipes led me to believe they would.
Next: assemble the ingredients.
This photo leaves out the garlic. DO NOT FORGET THE GARLIC. The brine is easy enough – just chop, combine, and bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes.
Then, skin and chop the roasted beets. Again: this proved a smidge more difficult and messy than any of the sages who advised me let on.
Once you’ve got the brine simmered and the beets chopped, divide them all into your jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace at the top. See how I employ that canning jargon like I know what it means? “Headspace”!
Wiping the jar rims is, like, the MOST IMPORTANT STEP in the entire process. I did not believe everyone when they yelled this at me in social media comments, and I barely believed my mom when she emphasized it in person. But one of those rims had some leftover gunk on it and, even though I scrubbed and picked at it after wiping thoroughly, that jar did not seal. I’m a believer, now.
And now, for the video tutorial portion of our class! Mom was pretty sick all week, but she made a valiant effort for the cause.
But wait! There’s more!
It’s no wonder I’ve got the canning bug…
Fill the pot up with hot water, towels in the bottom. Settle the cans in. Heat on the stovetop until it comes to a boil (a very long time), then, for these beets, let it boil for ten minutes.
I kept peeking under the lid to see if the water was boiling or not, and Mom kept reassuring me that it was a slow, slow process. I decided to take the dog for a (short) walk. When I got back, no longer than 12 minutes later, they were done. Mom had turned the range off and set the lid aside. I was bummed that I basically missed the entire canning action, BUT:
I DID get to use the coolest canning tool ever.
That’s it. That’s all. You pull the jars out, set them on a towel on the counter, wait for the sweet, sweet sound of those canned lids popping.
Oh, and, of course, wait three more weeks for the pickling process to take full effect. Maybe I’ll post another lifestyle blog post when I taste test the fruits of this, my very first pickling and canning adventure.
Seriously, I know there are other, more intense and difficult forms of canning – depending on what you’re preserving and how you’re doing it. But I had been so intimidated by the very idea of canning – and, honestly, so discouraged by all the comments about what a miserable, time-consuming, hot and exhausting process it was – that the ease with which this project came together totally floored me.
Now I want to pickle and can ALL THE THINGS!