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Pickled Beets: My Father Was Right

Much-reviled beets are one of the few foods on Earth I find truly repulsive. I think they taste exactly like musty dirt and generally want absolutely nothing to do with them. And then came my crusade to eat more seasonably and locally and my decision to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) club. My CSA ships year-round organic vegetables that are sourced as locally as is possible/cost effective. Part of that commitment was bound to include trying new things. Enter the beets.

I remember as a kid thinking after the first taste made my taste buds want to retreat down my throat that beets must have been something you ate in the depression, because they were less hard than pebbles, and that anyone that still ate beets was a: ancient and had no taste left, or b: wanted to eat what they ate when they were little.

I’m fairly certain that an ancient person was the first to get me to try beets. Possibly my grandfather with Althziemers. Maybe it was only my father. I did think he was ancient, after all. (what can I say? I was a little kid. Being in your 30s was one and the same with being in your 60s or 80s to me at the time. Yeek!)

The first time I got beets, I was terrified. Beets, while a beautiful shade of claret, are gross. They taste like dirt. What the crap could I possibly do to them to make them edible?

I made pasta. My fresh beet pasta came out a beautiful shade of burgundy and I served it with a brown butter and poppyseed pan sauce, because everything is better with butter. And you know what? It worked. The beets were only slightly earthy; combined with the butter and some fresh shaved parmesan, they were great. And pretty.

I’m not scared of you any more, beets. You hear that? I’ve kicked your ass and lived to tell the tale.

Now I know, I can’t serve them in pasta every time I get them. I’ve also roasted and shredded them for beet and potato latkes, and they were great.

Every time I mention beets to my father and how I’m running out of the limited things I can do to disguise them, he tells me how great pickled beets are. I’m skeptical to say the least–sounds like some weird old people shit to me–I’m willing to try it for him. If for nothing else, but a reason to talk a little smack.

Pickled Beets
Adapted from Simple Recipes

5 beets (about 2 c.)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub beets and cut into uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. Boil for 15-30 minutes depending upon how large your pieces are, until a fork slides easily into them.

Drain and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. use your fingers or a paring knife to slip the skins off. They should come off easily. Discard the peels and slice the beets 1/4 inch thick.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients together to form a vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Salt & pepper to taste.

Add beets to the bowl and stir to coat. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, stir again, and let sit 15 minutes more.

The verdict: Well, shit. These are actually pretty derned good. The first bite tasted a little like dirt in a not unpleasant way, and subsequent bites tasted sharp and sweet. I could even eat these in a salad without dying. So, dad, you were right ;p.


  1. Posted Mar 3 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh! I made that same beet pasta just a few weeks ago and posted about it on my blog! I, too, was introduced to beets at a young age. Repulsed as I was by them back then, I have certainly grown to love them (roasted, pickled, pureed and even fresh).

    • cochrancj
      Posted Mar 3 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it funny how tastes change as we age?

      What recipe did you use? Mine was very plain–water, flour, beets.

  2. Dad
    Posted Mar 3 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Would I lie to you? And yes, I am very, very, old. Did you try the hard boiled eggs in the beet juice? Put the hard boiled eggs in a mason jar with the left over pickling juice and let them soak for a day or two. Very tasty and pretty. They will keep for a long time.
    Were you careful or are your hands purple?

    • cochrancj
      Posted Mar 3 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      From 31 looking forward, you’re not that old!

      I totally forgot to add eggs to the liquid. Next time, I’ll remember. I was fairly careful with the beets… hands only briefly purple and a few spots on the white tank top I was wearing. When will I learn? :)

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