When Jujus said she’d pickled beets, I wrinkled my nose. I’d eaten them. I knew to wrinkle my nose. My beet encounter came in Ottumwa, Iowa. It’s as small as it sounds. By day five of my trip, I wanted salad the way the mother of triplets craves caffeine in the morning. There were five choices at the salad bar: potato salad (color: white), macaroni salad (color: white), iceburg lettuce with ranch dressing (color: white), Jell-o salad (color: neon green), and pickled beets (color :deep burgundy). I’d never thought of wanting beets before, but I wanted some of that burgundy on my plate. I wanted the color. I needed it in defense against the chicken fried steak, fried potatoes, and fried onions.
Eating the beets was like wearing a swimsuit for the first time after setting its color. I felt like there was vinegar in my nose, under my fingernails, and coating my skin. Can’t you see why I wrinkled my nose at Jujus and her pickled beets?
I watched as she tossed them with goat cheese and greens. The wrinkles of my nose became an inquisitive brow. She shared a bite. There was vinegar, but it was mild and combined with sugar and spice.
Our forks might have done a little battle dance for the largest pieces of beet, but it was friendly. After all, there were more beets in the refrigerator.
Tickle Me Pickled
Serves 4 (or 1 for multiple days)
You can use red or yellow beets. I prefer to make a double batch, so I have some of both. Don’t cook or marinate them together though. If you do, you won’t have the same vibrant color as preparing them separately.
1 bunch beets (4 or 5)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS olive oil
1 TSP mustard seed, roughly ground (I like to use mustard seed instead of powder, because it adds an extra texture to the dish)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
If beets have stems attached, remove stems. If beets aren’t uniform in size, cut the large ones in half. Place beets in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Allow beets to cook until a fork is easily inserted into the beet (about 30 minutes).
While beets are cooking, whisk vinegar, sugar, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Drain beets and rinse with cold water. Use your fingers to slip the peels off the beets. Discard peels and slice beets evenly (about ¼-½ inch thick).
Toss beets with vinegar and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour before serving or up to 1 week.
Note: Flavors will become more intense as time goes on.
(This veggie can be served as a garnish or side. It is limited only by your creativity.)
Standing in front of your refrigerator, eating them straight from the bowl with your fingers. Just make sure to wash your hands well before you touch anything else as the juice will stain.
Topped with goat cheese.
Tossed with greens and a pesto vinaigrette
On top of boiled potatoes