Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gail’s Pickled Beets

My neighbor called the other day and asked me for my recipe for pickled beets. I have been making them for more than thirty years and they are a family favorite. I was surprised to find I have never written down my recipe. It is based on watching my grandmother and a recipe from the second edition of Putting Food By, 1975 p. 444.

15 lbs. beets without tops
6 cups vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 recipe Hilltop Herbs Beet Pickle Mix
12 pint jars and lids, washed and held in hot water

Wash beets leaving root and 2” of stem. Put beets in a large kettle and cover with water. Boil until tender when pierced with fork.

While beets are cooking make the pickling syrup in a large stainless or enamel kettle. Mix together vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Let simmer.

Dunk beets in cold water to handle. Slip off skins, stem and root. Slice. They can be left whole if they are baby beets. As the beets are sliced, put them in the kettle of hot pickling syrup.

When all the beets are sliced, start filling jars one at a time. Put 1 Tbsp. of beet pickle mix in jar. Fill loosely with beets. Add hot syrup, leaving ½” of headroom. Seal and set jar in canner filled with hot water.

When canner is full, bring to boil and process for 30 minutes.

Hilltop Herbs Beet Pickle Mix

This is one of the mixes, in a family size recipe, I created and sold when I was doing business as Hilltop Herbs.

3 Tbsp. Mustard Seed
2 1/2 Tbsp. Onion Flakes
5 (3”) Cinnamon Sticks, crushed
2 1/2 Tbsp. Whole Allspice
1 1/2 Tbsp. Celery Seed

Mix all together. Use 1 Tablespoon per pint jar of beets.
Yield: enough for 12 pints of pickled beets, 1 canner full.

Substitution: If you would prefer to use fresh onion rings, delete the onion flakes from the mix. Thinly slice several onions into rings and heat them in the syrup with the beets. Be sure to put some rings in each jar.

Gail’s Homemade Tomato Ketchup

I have been making homemade ketchup for more than thirty years. My family always raves over the flavor and we give it away as presents. My original recipe came from Putting Food By, 2nd edition 1975, p. 316. The following recipe is what has evolved over the years.

Yield: 10 pints

½ bushel tomatoes, 4 gal cut up
½ gal cut onions
½ gal cut sweet red peppers
4 large cloves garlic, cut
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. celery seed
2 Tbsp. whole allspice
2 Tbsp. whole cloves
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed
4 bay leaves
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
3 cups cider vinegar

Wash the tomatoes. Cut out the cores and any bad spots. Cut into 2 to 6 pieces over ½ gal measure.

When full, pour into 20 quart stainless kettle. Keep count of how many gallons are in kettle.

Peel the onions and cut into 4 to 6 pieces into ½ gal measure. Then add to kettle.

Wash and core the peppers. Cut into large chunks into ½ gal measure. Then add to kettle.

Peel garlic cloves and cut in half. Add to kettle.

Cover and heat over medium heat stirring occasionally with a large sturdy spoon, to keep the scorching to a minimum. This will be easier as the liquid begins to break down from the tomatoes. Simmer for about 25 minutes until the peppers and onions are soft.

Process through a Squeezo or Victorio Strainer or other juicer to remove skins and seeds.

Heat oven to 350°F. Put a very large flat pan for evaporation on the middle rack of the oven. I use the bottom of an enameled turkey roaster 18” x 13” x 4 ½” deep.

As the juice is rendered, measure it and pour into the pan. Stir in the salt.

Put all the spices in muslin spice bags or tie into several thicknesses of cheesecloth or muslin. Put spice bags in juice in pan in oven.

If there is more juice than can safely fit in pan, put it in a covered container and hold it in the refrigerator to add later as the ketchup cooks down.

While cooking at 350°F, stir about once an hour. Turn down to 325°F, to cook overnight. Be sure to get up early to check on it. Continue cooking at 350°F the next morning and stirring more frequently as it thickens, say every ½ hour.

When ketchup is reduced to about 1/3 its original volume, stir in the brown sugar and cider vinegar.

Cook for another hour or so until thickened again.

To can, set pan over one or two burners set to low heat. Use just enough heat to keep it boiling but not burned.

Ladle while boiling hot into hot ½ pint or pint jars, leaving ½ inch of headroom. Run a table knife around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles. Wipe the rim clean with a clean hot cloth and set the lid (which was held under hot boiled water) on top. Screw on a clean hot ring, holding hot jar with towel. Using a mitt and jar tongs, lower jar into hot canner.

Process jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with mitt and tongs and set on thick towel on draft free counter with several inches between jars and listen to the lids pop as they seal! Any jars that don’t seal should be refrigerated and used first.

Tip: Be sure to wash up right away. The screen of the strainer can get especially bad if not cleaned ASAP. There will inevitably be some burned spots on the bottom of the large kettle. Wash the rest of the kettle, rinse and drain. Sprinkle a heavy layer of baking soda over the burned spots, cover and let sit for a day or so. When you go back to wash it, the spots should lift much easier.