One of Autumn’s most underrated vegetables is the humble beet. Actually, beets are available from early summer through the time the ground freezes hard in November because you can succession crop them. But somehow, we appreciate them the most in the Autumn. Maybe it is because after a hot summer of lighter cuisine, we are ready to turn our culinary attention to hardier, stick-to-the-ribs, more earthy fare. Beets fit into this “earthy” category perfectly. They have just the right balance of sweetness and richness. Their color is a luscious red that is so dense that anyone who has ever cooked with beets will describe how one must take care to avoid staining clothes, hands, and kitchen surfaces. Beet juice can be used as a natural dye and I know several crafters, who work with natural fibers and who spin wool yarn, who create the most lovely rose colored yarns by dying with beets. But, of course, the best thing about beets is their great taste and versatility in the kitchen. Boiled, roasted, and pickled– it makes no difference– we at Noel Farms grow and love our beets in all their variations.
This year, we grew Lutz Winter Keepers ( an heirloom variety) and Detroit Reds. Both of these varieties are red beets. Due to a terribly cold and wet Spring, our crop of Golden beets failed to germinate. Ever hopeful for next year, however, we plan on again growing both the red and golden varieties during the 2012 growing season.
As this post is being written, we are hard at work putting up the Fall beet harvest. Beets that will be served fresh– roasted or boiled– are left in the ground until the ground is about to freeze hard. At that point ( usually early November in our USDA Zone 5) we will pull them, cut the tops off to within 1 inch of the root and store the roots in buckets filled with damp sand in our root cellar. They will keep this way over the winter. We can extract as many as we need for a meal from the buckets as needed. At the present, however, those beets not destined to be roasted or boiled are being pickled. We create a brine of vinegar, sugar, salt, sliced onions and cloves, and combine the brine with beets that have been steamed and peeled. The mixture is packed into canning jars. Then to the hot water canner they go for processing. Thirty minutes later and voile’– out come perfect pickled beets.
We will have a limited number of jars of Noel Farms pickled beets available for sale at our stand at the Port Washington Winter Farmer’s market on November 5, 12, and 19, and December 10. Until then, feast your eyes on this lovely picture and let your mind “taste” the beets. Enjoy !!!