Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to make pickled beets with honey, allspice and cinnamon - the recipe and tutorial

If you like beets, you HAVE to make this recipe.  If you think beets are just okay, not necessarily great, you HAVE to make this, too, and in turn you will start falling in love with beets.

How could you not?  The combination of the sweet taste of beets, made even sweeter with honey, cinnamon and allspice, all preserved in vinegar?  Opening a jar of this colorful treat in dreary February will have your heart sing with joy and your palette delight in the earthy flavor of summer and fall.

Trust me.  

I have made this recipe every year for over a decade, and my kids have loved eating these pickled beets from a very early age.  

Beets are an ancient, prehistoric food with lots and lots of health benefits.  Filled with phytonutrients, they contain powerful anti-cancer properties, are high in immune-boosting vitamin C and B, fiber, potassium and manganese.  Beets are famous for helping to detox the body and purify the blood and liver.

So you see?  There is no excuse not to eat beets, especially these wonderful, sweet, pickled beauties.

How to make pickled honeyed beets

Recipe - yields 3 or 4 quarts canned beets

1 gallon beets (about 6 to 9 pounds beets, depending on their size)
water to cover them
1 Tablespoon whole allspice
1 long stick cinnamon - and if you don't have that, just throw in 1/4 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1 quart vinegar - white or apple cider vinegar
1 cup honey

I always triple or quadruple the recipe above, since I grow lots of beets in my garden.

Collect beets from your garden, or buy them at a farmer's market or store.  I always use organic produce for everything I make.  I won't preach at you why organic is important.  Chances are, if you read my blog, you know.

Since my beets come in all kinds of different sizes, I use small and large ones and just cut the large ones.  More on that later.

When you harvest them, leave about 2 inches of stem on the beets.  Please save the beet greens for later use!  They are soooo good for you - sauteed, raw in salads, or in a green smoothie.  If you can't stomach that idea, at least feed them to your chickens or pigs.

Leave the roots on, too.  If you cut into the beets now, they'll start "bleeding" all over the water when you cook them, and you don't want that.

Since beets are root crops and grow under ground, they are pretty dirty when you first pull them out.  So I hose them down first before bringing them all in to rinse in the sink.  My septic system probably thanks me for not putting soil in the pipes.

Cook beets until they are tender

I rinse them some more in the kitchen, and when they are nice and clean and all pretty, I put them in a pot big enough to hold all of them, cover them with water, and cook until they are tender.

Don't cut the bigger beets at this point, otherwise they will leak and loose some nutrition into the water.  

When are they tender?  Oh, about 20 minutes to half an hour.  You'll know when you can stick a fork into them easily.  You don't want to overcook them and make them mushy.

Drain and then put into cold water

When they are done, drain them in a colander (or just throw them in the sink), and immediately put them into a pot or bowl filled with cold water.  This way, it makes it easy to slip off the skins, which you will do next.

Slip off skins

Now things are getting messy!  You need to slip off the skins, which is easy and quickly accomplished by rubbing your fingers along the beet, thereby taking off the skin.  It helps to do this over running water under the tap, or by keeping a bowl handy to dip into to make the skins get off your hands.  Your fingers and your sink will look like you slaughtered a pig.

Now is the time to cut bigger beets into smaller pieces if you want to have uniform pieces that all fit nicely into a mason jar.

Combine spices and vinegar - but not the honey yet!

Put the vinegar, allspice and cinnamon in a pot and heat it up til it's really hot.  Don't put the honey in yet!

Simmer beets

Put the beets into this hot vinegar brew and simmer for 15 minutes.  After that, add the honey.

Can in a boiling water bath

Pack the beets into hot, sterilized quart or pint mason jars, then cover with the hot vinegar syrup.  Leave 1/4-inch headspace.  Adjust seals and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I found that placing the hot jars with the hot beets and syrup into the canner very, very gently keeps the jars from breaking.  It's frustrating to go through all this work and break the jars, which will then leak beets and red liquid everywhere.

That's a sad thing, y'all!

Let the jars cool

When they are done, put them on a counter in a draft-free spot and let them cool undisturbed.  Listen for the "pling" sound that the lids make when they seal.  It's music to my ears when that happens.  

Admire the gorgeous ruby red jars.  Be proud of yourself.  You did it!

I always like to wait to eat them until they've been sitting for a few weeks to let the flavors infuse, but hey, if you can't wait to eat them, go right ahead!


  1. YUUUUUUMMMMMM! I LOVE pickled beets! I even buy some fresh beets at the market and make a small batch just to keep in the fridge and eat up in a couple weeks. I just pour the boiling conglomeration into jars and seal without canning bath. Because I'm going to eat them right away. One O' these days I'm going to invest in some canning equipment and then I'll have them all winter long. I've never tried honey and that would have been a good project at The Ranch because we had bee hives.

    1. We found our canning stuff very cheaply on craigslist! Keep looking, it's out there. Although a better time to look is probably winter...

    2. Good advice! Thanks!

  2. Thanks, these are next on my canning agenda. Going to try both red and golden beets.

  3. The photos alone encourage me to make this. The instructions are better and prettier than any cookbook I've ever used!

    1. Thanks, Rob! Even the messy, blood-like splattered sink, eh?

  4. Our beets will be ready in about two weeks and I cannot wait to try your recipe. We mainly eat them roasted with some balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme, or pickle them in vinegar with chilli for winter. The warmth of honey and allspice just makes my mouth water!

    1. They are great roasted, too. So sweet! I like to can them because then they will be like gold in winter!

  5. I would leave the skin on. I like the skin. Why do you add the honey since it's pretty sweet already and apple cider has sweetness too?

    1. You can totally leave the skin on, if you want. The skin has great nutrients in it. However, the texture gets weird, and it peels off by itself and then floats around weirdly in the liquid. I don't like that. And I add honey because it's so damn good that way! And my kids like it!

    2. Hi Corina. I thought the heat from the water bath will kill the honey pro biotics and other good stuff.

    3. Frances,
      I make this recipe for the medicinal qualities of beets, not honey.
      If you are looking for probiotics, you should check out my tutorial on how to make sauerkraut. Also, I teach an online fermenting course where I teach to make Yogurt, sauerkraut, beet kvass, kombucha and fermented bread. These are all loaded with probiotics.

  6. I love beets but my husband thinks they taste like dirt! Oh well, more for me. I can pickled beets but have not done it with honey. I will be trying it this year.

  7. Ok,how much is 1 gallon of beets?

  8. Also, what does this yield in jars?

  9. Also, what does this yield in jars?

    1. Debi,
      It depends on the size of your beets. I would say about 6-9 # of beets equals 1 gallon of beets. This recipe yields 3 to 4 quarts canned beets.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Why no pickling salt? Is it safe to can without it?

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Trying this today! I've been searching for a recipe with honey instead of refined sugar, not an easy task ;)


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