Tag Archives | beets

How to Make Beet Raisins

Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in to show us how to simmer and dry beet slices into beet raisins. It’s a great project for this in-between time, when we’re waiting for spring produce to arrive! -Marisa

Small slices of beets on a dehydrator tray will become beet raisins.

I’m not much of a cooking competition show watcher. The exceptions are the original Japanese Iron Chef, which I followed voraciously back in high school, The Great British Baking Show (of course), and a brief foray into MasterChef Junior — all shows that avoid the cutthroat, stressful nature of most reality TV.

So I can’t really blame myself for not knowing about beet raisins, with which chef Carrie Baird of Denver’s Bar Dough wowed the judges during an episode of Top Chef last year.

Cut beets on a cutting board for beet raisins.

A poster on the Food in Jars Community Facebook group mentioned them recently, and I was instantly fascinated. Beets are the kind of veggie I always wish I used more often. Now that I have an Instant Pot, it’s easy to quickly prep a bunch for a week of salads, but that’s as about as creative as I’ve gotten with them lately.

And while I’m waiting for the ever-so-slow unfolding of spring here in Philly, farmers’ market stands still have tons of sturdy storage beets in red and gold, harvested months ago. With strawberries still weeks away and grapes for actual raisins not available until high summer, I had to try this recipe.

Cut and peeled beets for beet raisins.

Baird’s recipe calls for melon balling the raw beets into uniform spheres, which is far more work than I wanted to put in. (A melon baller is also not one of the many culinary tools in my kitchen, and if I’ve managed to avoid getting one for this long, it’s not gonna happen now.)

So I peeled and trimmed my organic red beets, then halved them and cut each halves into five roughly equal slices, about half an inch thick and an inch or so long — cutting the pointy end, then slicing the remainder into quarters.

Cut beets in a pot that will become beet raisins.

Slices rather than balls also reduces waste, giving you more beet raisin for your buck. (My cuts gave me larger pieces in the end; if you want something more raisin-sized, do cuts closer to 1/2″ all around and cut the drying time.) The slices went into a pot with vinegar, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.

Baird uses champagne vinegar, which you’re welcome to do; I used apple cider vinegar, because that’s what I had on hand (and I’m not trying to win a high-stakes cooking competition).

The slices simmered till they were very soft but not disintegrating, about two hours. Then, I drained the liquid — which you could use to make salad dressing, or add a little more salt and use it to quick-pickle some thinly-sliced hakurei turnips, for example — and let the slices cool for a bit.

Side view of beet slices on a dehydrator tray for beet raisins.

The cooked beet “grapes” then went into my Excalibur dehydrator at at 135oF, which is the setting recommended for fruit. After two hours, the beets were showing signs of dehydration, but their texture was still more like beets than raisins.

I upped the temperature to 145oF, which is the temperature I include in the recipe below. The beets took another three hours or so until they were sufficiently raisinlike for me to pull them out — next time, I might just turn the dehydrator up all the way to 155oF and see if that helps to shorten the dehydration time without overdrying.

When I did, they were wrinkly, chewy and toothsome, and pleasantly sweet and a little tart — just like real raisins! They’re super snackable and would be delicious in a bowl of yogurt with granola, or on a kale salad, as Baird served them on Top Chef. I could also see using them to top a tzatziki-esque cucumber salad along with lots of dill, toasted slivered almonds, and a pillowy pita.

Finished beet raisins in a small bowl.

They’re not quite as simple as stemming grapes and tossing them onto a dehydrator rack, but I’ll definitely be making these beet raisins again. Would you give them a try? Tell us in the comments!

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The First Issue of Edible Philly

Edible Philly November 2013

For years now, I’ve envied all the other cities out there that had their own Edible magazines. It just seemed wrong that a vibrant food town like Philly didn’t have its own food-focused publication. Happily, my envious days are over. The very first issue of Edible Philly finally hit newsstands this month.

Edible Philly November 2013

This first issue is filled with good stuff, including a story about locally made ciders, a piece about Bethlehem, PA, and gorgeous, photo-heavy spread about Di Bruno Bros., Philly’s cheese institution.

Edible Philly November 2013

Some of my favorite local writers and photographers contributed to this issue, including Tara Matazara Desmond (I’ve been raving about her new book, Choosing Sides, to anyone who will listen), fab photog Albert Yee, and Madame Fromage herself, Tenaya Darlington. I am honored to be listed among so much talent.

Edible Philly November 2013

I wrote about beets for the In Season column in this issue. I had so much fun developing the recipes and have made the both the roasted beet dip and the beet and potato latkes repeatedly since writing that piece. The latkes would be a fun way to mix up your Hanukkah table this year, if you’re looking for fresh inspiration.

Edible Philly November 2013

I’m looking forward to reading (and hopefully contributing to!) many future issues of Edible Philly. It’s such a good addition to the city’s food scene!

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Beet and Onion Salad

beet-onion-salad

A two summers ago, I went through a major beet phase. I bought them constantly, and always had a jar of simply cooked beets marinating in a basic vinaigrette in the fridge. I used them to top salads and would toss them with pasta and shaved parmesan cheese for a quick dinner. Often, when there wasn’t much else around, I’d just eat them straight out of the jar.

When the season came around last summer, I wasn’t quite as hot for beets. I don’t know if I overdid it the year before or if I was just more enamored of other vegetables (I did go awfully crazy for string beans and artichokes). A number of beets did come my way through a CSA share Scott and I split with a friend and while I tried valiantly, I was never quite able to keep up with the flood. So sometime last November, I popped several beets into a gallon-sized storage bag and tucked them into the rear of the produce drawer, planning to get to them another day.

Well, that other day turned into last night. Recently, I’ve been focusing my mealtime energy into using what I have as opposed to buying ingredients on my walk home from work. Digging through the produce drawer, I came upon the beets. They were still firm, so I boiled a small pot of water and dropped them in. I know that lots of people prefer roasting beets, but when it comes to this preparation, I find that simmering them until they are fork tender is the most convenient, and I don’t notice any loss of flavor. Additionally, I like that they become so easy to peel when cooked like. All you have to do is let them cool to the point where you’re able to handle them and then briskly rub them until the skins loosen. A quick rinse and they are good to go.

While this isn’t a canning recipe exactly, beets that are prepped like this will last for about a week in the fridge (that is, if they last that long). And a nice, big canning jar is the perfect storage container.

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