A Month of Side Dishes: Quick Pickled Beets and Eggs
Pickled beets make a pleasing contrast as a chilled side dish for a warm entree. The best part for me, though, is that you can make pickled beet eggs at the same time.
As a child, when my grandmother opened a jar of her pickled beets, she would remove beets to serve and then fill the jar space with peeled hard boiled eggs. By the next day, when we sliced the eggs open, the colors were gorgeous! The egg whites were deep purple on the outside, shading to white around the bright yellow yolks. Beautiful! The flavor was delightful, too–the tang of the pickling juice and beets balanced the mild astringent taste of hard-boiled eggs. Perfect!
You can purchase canned or jarred pickled beets, of course, but making them yourself is simpler than you might think. It's an easy way to start learning the art of making refrigerator pickles. Several vegetables commonly pickled can be prepared as “refrigerator pickles.” Refrigerator pickles won’t keep as long as pickles canned the traditional way, but they are fast to make and will last from a couple of weeks to a year, depending on the vegetables and the recipe you use.
Refrigerator pickles are not as fussy to prepare as traditional canning methods. For example, since the pickles will be refrigerated constantly from the time you make them, jars and lids don’t need to be sterilized by boiling. Cleaning jars in the dishwasher (using the hottest water setting) is typically sufficient. Lids also don’t need an airtight seal. If you use a recipe from a reputable source and follow the directions exactly, the pickles will be quick and easy to make, and safe to eat. (Note: If you've never made pickles before, it’s a good idea to check first with your nearest Agricultural Extension Office for information about food safety and sources of safe and reliable recipes. Be sure to let them know you are specifically looking for “refrigerator pickle” recipes and safety guidelines.)
Below is my recipe for pickled beets. Naturally I tuck some peeled hard-boiled eggs in among the beets as I put them in jars. After sitting overnight in the refrigerator, both beets and eggs will be ready to eat, and I savor every bite.
If you’re willing to let the beets sit in the refrigerator a day or two longer before you serve them, you can slice them into quarter inch slices instead of dicing them. I used the smaller pieces because I knew they would absorb the pickling juice more quickly. You can also take the eggs to the next level of delicious by deviling them after they’re pickled.
Buy Local for Best Flavor
My grandmother always started with ingredients from her garden and the farm she and my grandfather owned. To get the same full flavors, I use both ingredients from my garden and ingredients grown locally, which I purchase at farm stores and farmers markets in my area. Once you've tried fresh locally produced ingredients, you'll never go back. The flavor is incomparable. Fortunately fresh beets and eggs are available throughout the winter in most parts of the U.S.