How do you feel about beets? Seems they’re one of those love ’em or hate ’em foods. I’m in the love category. I love beets plain, pickled, pureed into soup, cubed in a salad, and even — especially — made into catsup.
Whether you’re home from the grocers with a handful of beets or hauling a bounty from the garden or farmers’ market, these tips for storage will help your beets last. Like other tubers, when properly stored, beets can last for months!
Choose the best beets
The best beets will keep the longest, so be picky. When shopping for beets, look for those that:
• Are small (Smaller beets are sweeter and more tender than large beets, which may have a woody center.)
• Are dark red (If you’re lucky enough to find golden beets or candycane beets, go for bright color.)
• Have bright, unwilted leaves attached
• Have unblemished skin, with no spots or scales
• Have the taproot attached
Cut off the leaves, leaving just an inch or two of stem. (Store the leaves separately, in a produce bag. Use them in soups or on sandwiches, as you would spinach or chard, for example.) Don’t trim the root. And don’t wash the beets.
Place beets in a produce bag or storage container. Add a paper towel or clean cloth to absorb moisture. Place the bag or container in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, where the beets will keep at least a week or two. (Check the bag from time to time and take out any beets that aren’t faring well.)
Note: If your beets are harvested fresh from the garden, brush off the soil, but don’t wash them. Spread them out to dry overnight, then store as directed above.
How to store a bounty of beets
If you have a nice, big harvest or purchase of fresh beets, consider storing them in a bucket or box filled with sand, sawdust, or peat moss. Place them two layers deep in the container, a couple of inches apart and surrounded all around by the storage medium. Cover loosely, to allow some air circulation.
Keep in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a basement or a garage where they won’t freeze. (A temperature of about 38 to 42 degrees F is ideal.) Make sure the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much or it will cause the beets to deteriorate. Check the beets from time to time and remove any that are starting to go bad.
Beets properly stored this way can last for several months.
How to freeze beets
Freezing is another good way to store a large quantity of beets. Beets will keep in the freezer for about a year.
- Wash the beets.
- Trim, leaving an inch of stem and the tap root. (Leaving these will help keep the beets from bleeding color as they cook.)
- Cook the beets in boiling water until tender. Depending on their size, this will take 25 to 50 minutes.
- Plunge them in cool water to cool.
- Peel and remove the stem and root.
- Slice or cube the beets.
- Place in freezer bags or containers. Leave about half an inch of headspace for expansion.
- Label with the date and freeze.
How to can beets
Canned beets make a beautiful addition to the pantry! These directions are based on those from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Canned beets typically last a year or so.
You’ll need about 21 pounds of beets (without the tops) to make 7 quarts of canned beets.
- Trim off the beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots. This will help reduce the bleeding of color.
- Scrub well.
- Cover with boiling water, and boil until the skins slip off easily, about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size.
- Cool just enough to handle. (The beets should still be warm or hot when you put them in the jars.)
- Remove skins, and trim off stems and roots.
- Very small (baby) beets can be canned whole. Otherwise, cut into half-inch slices or cubes.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, if desired.
- Fill clean, sterilized jars with hot beets and fresh hot water that has been boiled. (Don’t use the water you boiled the beets in.) Leave about an inch of headspace in each jar.
- Adjust the lids and process.
If you’re using a dial-gauge pressure canner, process quart jars for 35 minutes. (If your altitude is 1-2,000 feet, the canner pressure (PSI) should be 11; at 2,001-4,000 feet it should be 12; at 4,001-6,000 feet it should be 13; and at 6,001 to 8,000 feet it should be 14.)
If you’re using a weighted-gauge pressure canner, process a quart at 35 minutes, but set the pressure (PSI) at 10 for altitudes of 0 to 1,000 feet and 15 if you’re above 1,000 feet.
Pickled beets will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month, no pressure canning necessary (thanks to the vinegar brine). Here’s a good recipe for pickled beets, from Joanne at the Salty Pot, along with some fun tips for serving them. (I hadn’t thought of adding them to tacos and sandwiches!)
How do you feel about beets? Yay or nay? If you’re in the yay category, please share your favorite beet recipe to help convince the naysayers! (Here’s a recipe to try for one of my favorite ways to eat beets — sweet potato fries with beet catsup.)
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