I have an unnatural love for beets. I wasn’t always this way, it happened after I turned 30. That was the first time that I tasted a homemade pickled beet, not out of a can. Wow, what a difference!
Lacto-fermentation brings an even more complex flavor to sweet beets, without added sweetener or vinegar. In the ‘olden days’, vinegar wasn’t necessarily used to keep beets. Beets were fermented in the same way as sauerkraut, with salt and water. In Sally Fallon’s recipe from Nourishing Traditions, whey is used as an inoculate to get the good bacteria started.
Tips for making fermented (a.k.a. pickled) beets:
- Cook beets in the oven unpeeled wrapped in foil when you are cooking something else anyway, such as a roast or meatloaf.
- Grow your own beets to make this recipe even more inexpensive. Sow in spring and fall. Beets will winter over in many areas if protected with mulch. They need non-rocky soil but are pretty easy otherwise. Pick a variety native to your area for best results.
- Cut beets in any shape that you like, circles, chunks, half moons, just make sure they are roughly the same thickness.
- When you’re done eating the beets, don’t throw out the beet juice! Use it in salad dressings, soup, or drink it like you would drink beet kvass, as a digestive tonic.
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- 12 medium organic beets
- seeds from 2 cardamom pods (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons whey
- 1 Tablespoon sea salt (See Resources)
- filtered water
Prick beets in several places, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 3 hours (see note above for alternative cooking), or until soft. Peel and cut into a 1/4 inch julienne. Do not grate or cut the beets with a food processor – this releases too much juice and the fermentation process will proceed too quickly, so that it favors formation of alcohol rather than lactic acid.
Place beets in a quart-sized, wide mouth mason jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over beets, adding more water if necessary to cover the beets. The top of the beets should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.
Photo courtesy of phxpma on Flickr
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