Tag Archives | Pickled Beets

Guest Post: Pickled Beets with Honey from Camille Storch

DSC_1048

Oh friends, do I have a treat in store for you today! It’s a guest post from writer, woodworker, avid canner, and mom of two, Camille Storch. She writes about ecology, agriculture, community, and the reality of her family’s joyful, off-the-grid life in rural Western Oregon on her blog, Wayward Spark.

She also designs and crafts natural edge cutting and serving boards and sells them in her Etsy shop, Red Onion Woodworks. I recently added one of her boards to my kitchen and it’s quickly become one of my most loved and used tools. Enjoy!

beets

My mom canned a lot when I was a kid, but like most activities my parents enjoyed, I had no interest in participating in her steamy kitchen exploits. My parents were big gardeners/small farmers who sold their vegetables and baked goods at the local farmers’ market starting the year I was born (and continuing to this day). I enjoyed hanging around the action of the market, and I always loved to eat pretty much any kind of fruit or vegetable, but I never once sowed a seed or pulled a weed unless I was coerced or bribed into doing it.

In a strange and unexplainable turn of events, I got my first real job when I was still in high school working on an organic vegetable farm, and even more surprisingly, I really liked it. I tackled thistles, harvested sweet cherries, and cleaned fresh garlic for days on end. I got a couple of gnarly sunburns, I learned to speak Spanish, and for the first time in my life, I developed real working muscles. And my love for fruits and vegetables reached a whole new level.

DSC_0818

When I moved out of my parents’ house at 18, I would regularly eat giant piles of kale (before kale was the phenom that it is today) over brown rice for dinner, and in the summer, I’d feast on unmarketable-but-still-delicious cracked heirloom tomatoes out in the fields with sprigs of basil as chasers. Farms and food became a way of life for me during my college years, and I’d show up to class in dirty Carhartt’s, like they were some sort of badge of honor.

My first forays into canning on my own involved farm excesses including ugly tomatoes, windfall apples, and a whole box of scarred nectarines that couldn’t be sold. I spent a fair bit of time on the phone with my mom or tracking down USDA hot water bath guidelines, but it wasn’t long before the rhythm of washing, sterilizing, peeling, stuffing, lidding, and boiling was familiar and comforting.

cipollinis

I moved into a rental house with a new roommate in May at the end of my junior year in college, and I saw my roommate’s eyes grow wide as I schlepped box after box of empty canning jars up the steps and into the kitchen. A month later, I bought my first chest freezer and moved that into the house, too. I’m fairly certain my roommate thought I was completely off my rocker, but by the end of the summer, I had canned, frozen, or dried enough produce to feed a small army.

Over the years, I’ve pared down my canning experiments to include more or less just what my family can and wants to eat in the off season: a few jars of jam, some applesauce, a lot of cold-packed whole tomatoes, and a few extras just for fun or for gifts (plus a freezer full of blueberries and other staples). The fact that canning and preserving is really “in” right now is kind of funny to me because it’s been a part of my own life for so long now that it doesn’t feel too special anymore. That said, I’m all in favor of any activity that brings folks closer to their food and the farms that produce that food.

DSC_0780

When I stumbled across this new fangled group called the Portland Preservation Society on Instagram, I was intrigued. When I went to my first meeting, I was hooked. The PPS is a loose collective of Portland area food enthusiasts that meets monthly to swap (mostly canned) food items. (Be sure to check out PPS founder Brooke Weeber’s crazy cool vegetable illustrations in her Etsy shop, Little Canoe.) Every meeting is a showcase of the possibilities in food preservation from jellies to pickles to spreads to infused alcohols, sweet and savory alike.

The April PPS meeting was the perfect excuse for me to dust off my trusty pickled beet recipe. I first ordered a big bag of beets from my vegetable alma mater, Gathering Together Farm, and then I stole a few onions from my parents’ root cellar. I used honey instead of sugar in this recipe because my husband is a beekeeper, so we almost always have honey on hand, and I’m all about keepin’ it local. I spent a pleasant afternoon stuffing jars and perfuming my kitchen with steam from the sweet and tangy brine. In the end, I discovered that my fellow PPS members are just as enthusiastic about pickled beets as I am, but luckily I held back a couple jars to enjoy at home.

pickled-beets-fij

There are beet lovers and beet haters in the world, and well, I love ‘em. Pretty much any style of beets suits me just fine, especially if the earthy roots are paired with a bit of creamy chévre or salty feta. These pickled beets are honey sweetened but not overly so and seasoned with onion (cipollini if you can find them) and a bit of pickling spice. The preservative power comes from the all-important ratio of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water, so if you want to halve or double this recipe, be sure to retain that balance.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 23 }

Preserves in Action: Baby Arugula with Pickled Beets

overhead salad

I spent most of yesterday catching up. So much of my recent energy has been focused on finishing the book draft, that a great many aspects of my life and work were woefully neglected. I’ve learned that for me, it takes that kind of single-minded intensity to get big projects done, but as the fog of focus begins to lift, I can finally see clearly how much I’ve been ignoring (a very great deal).

And so, yesterday I worked on picking up all those forsaken threads of life. I returned a library book and checked out another that I’d reserved many weeks back. I packed boxes for the post office. I washed week-old strawberry residue off the coffee table. I turned in several freelance pieces that were later than expected. And I cleaned out the refrigerator a little.

Our fridge is nearly always stuffed to capacity and it is entirely my doing. Between the cooking I do for freelance projects, the massive amount of recipe development that goes into a cookbook (not to mention a blog), and a general devotion to eating as healthfully as we can, there’s just not a lot of space to spare in there. And since going into all book, all the time mode, the situation was dire.

salad with pickled beets

And so, I purged. I fished out the many mysterious, unlabeled jars (I really do need to get better about that) that had gotten shoved to the very back of our deep, skinny fridge. I was ruthless and managed to reduce the number of jars in the fridge by nearly half (at any given time, there are 15 to 40 jars in there). All questionable things were released.

I also pulled things back to the front that were still good, but had been forgotten. I discovered a few salt preserved limes left from last year’s batch, found a long lost jar of plum jam, and reclaimed a nearly empty jar of pickled golden beet cubes.

Today, when I went to make lunch, it was such a pleasure to open those doors and be able to see what was available without a massive dig. I grabbed a bag of baby arugula, half an avocado, some fresh goat cheese, and those pickled beets. Dressed with toasted walnut oil, salt, pepper, and some of the beet brine, it was a filling and brightly flavored salad (though, I did find myself wishing for a few toasted walnuts. Next time).

I ate it, sitting at the table instead of my desk, with the window open to the air and street noises. It felt so good to take the time to make a thoughtful lunch, to use something up that had earlier been lost to the depths and to be able to pause for just a little while.

 

Comments { 9 }