Purple goodness in a jar. That’s what pickled beets are. Hiding behind a magenta brine thanks to this root vegetable are small cuts or strips of tender beets made more tasty and flavorful as a result of pickling beets using brine that enhances and improves the taste of beets.
Pickled Beet Trivia
- There is a book entitled “The Last Pickled Beets” by Roxanne Rowley. It is a collection of stories about her childhood memories.
- A 1948 leaflet from the United States Depart of Agriculture (USDA) contains an easy recipe for egg and beet salad, made by combining “sliced hard-cooked eggs and pickled beets.”
Pickled Beet Buying Guide
If you are buying pickled beets, you can find them in the produce section of the supermarket or the aisle with shelves that display canned, pickled, or preserved foods.
Pickled beets are available in big supermarkets and grocery stores in Texas. H-E-B, an American privately held supermarket chain based in San Antonio, Texas, sells pickled beets. Walmart stores in Texas, like the one in Bentonville, also offer pickled beets. If you can’t go to the farmers market or do groceries, you can also order pickled beets online via different e-commerce websites like Amazon.
When buying pickled beets, we recommend you go local! There are many small, local, artisanal businesses that make small-batch pickled beets, usually using their surplus beets from their farms or backyard gardens.
There are also restaurants in Texas making their pickled beets and serving these to customers who rave about it and keep coming back for more. Check out Po Po restaurant in Boerne, Luby’s and Esquire Tavern (and their deep-fried pickled beets), which are both located in San Antonio, Pickletopia in Dallas, Jack Allen’s Kitchen Oak Hill in Austin, Sunshine’s Vegetarian Deli and Health Food Store in Houston, Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli in Chappell Hill, and Mama’s Daughters’ Diner in Lewisville.
When buying pickled beets, check the packaging. Make sure there is no damage or anything that suggests the contents inside have been compromised and rendered unsafe to consume. Check if the plastic seal is intact. Inspect the contents inside (jars are usually transparent or see-through, allowing you to see the contents of the jar).
How many jars should you buy? It depends. If you love pickled beets, better stock up since many makers of pickled beets consider this product seasonal, especially if your brand of choice is a local producer.
Pickled Beet Production & Farming in Texas
Texans love pickled beets. In North Texas, beets are grown during the spring and fall. Harvest season varies in different parts of Texas. Some harvest beets in January, while others harvest in May. Some growers start planting in September and harvest in December, while others start in late December for an April harvest. Some growers sell fresh beets while others make pickled beets.
Here are some recommendations if you are looking for pickled beets sellers near you:
- 5L Farms & Dairy in Marble Falls
- Bonita Flats Farm and Vineyard in Los Fresnos
- Floyd Farms Kitchen in Liberty Hills
- Ham Orchards in Terrell
- Marilyn’s Pantry
- Namo’s Homemade in San Antonio
- Perky Pickles and Products in Wills Point
- Stanford Family Farms in Dallas
- Thanecrafted in Fort Worth
Aside from buying directly from these businesses in their physical or online stores, you can also find pickled beets in farmers’ markets and similar venues that feature local vendors selling homemade artisanal products.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
A jar of pickled beets may contain these additives.
- High-fructose corn syrup – This is used to add artificial sweetness to food.
- Calcium chloride – This is important in producing pickled beets. This helps in keeping the beets firm.
- Sodium benzoate – Also called benzoic acid. This is added to improve the shelf life of pickled beets.
- Sodium Bisulfite – This preservative is used as an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant in food.
Many Americans enjoy pickled beets. Beets have a long history in the US, grown in the country as far back as the 1800s, brought here by colonists. Inclined in pickling, it did not take long before pickled beets became a staple in American dining tables.
The US was not the first in making and enjoying pickled beets, which are already popular in many parts of the world, including Europe and Africa, which is not surprising considering beets trace their origins from this part of the world. According to the book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs: History, Botany, Cuisine, “The modern beetroot descended from the wild sea beet found in the European and North African coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The dark red beetroot enjoyed today surfaced in the mid-seventeenth century.”
The book Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks made mention of the childhood memories of Nobel laureate Saul Bellow who remembers how his mother, who is from Latvia, often made pickled beets.
Gabby Mathews, in his book entitled Food and Dairy Microbiology, gave the readers an insight into the consumption of pickled beets in Western Europe: “Pickled beetroot, walnuts, and gherkins, and condiments such as pickle and piccalilli are typically eaten as an accompaniment to pork pies and cold meats, sandwiches or a ploughman’s lunch.”
Writing about Eastern Europe in their 2020 book entitled Nutritional and Health Aspects of Food in Eastern Europe, Tetiana Golikova, Diana Bogueva, and Mark Shamtsyan mentioned how “Beets were also pickled to add to soups like borsch and other dishes and salads in winters.”
From Europe, beets and pickled beets found their way to other places of the world where they are appreciated too. In a book entitled Health Benefits of Beetroot, authors M. Usman and John Davidson pointed out that “Pickled beets are also becoming very common in Australia and New Zealand as more and more people like to have them with hamburgers.”
Pickling vegetables is common in Africa, and it is common practice to pickle beets even today. Barbara Sheen, in her book entitled Foods of South Africa, wrote: “South Africans no longer have to worry about preserving their food in this way, yet they still enjoy eating pickled vegetables. In fact, pickled cucumbers, beets, and onions are all popular side dishes.”
William A. James Sr., in his book entitled Hard Times and Survival; the Autobiography of an African-American Son, mentioned eating pickled beets growing up. “Henry was sitting at the supper table eating his chicken-livers smothered in brown-onion gravy, over rice, with pickled beets on the side.”
Pickled beets are enjoyed in Asia. Even Asians who migrated abroad – in the US for example – brought their culinary heritage with them, fusing Asian food like pickled beets with the food that is a staple where they are now. Ratha Chaupoly, Ben Daitz, and Raquel Pelzel, in a book entitled Num Pang: Bold Recipes from New York City’s Favorite Sandwich Shop, wrote: “Salmon, beets, dill, and ginger: this dish is a total mishmash of both our cultures and backgrounds. In a nod to Southeast Asia, we add pickled ginger to Eastern European–style pickled beets just before serving.”
Jason Bussell, in his book entitled The Asian Diet: Simple Secrets for Eating Right, Losing Weight, and Being Well, seconded this. “In America, we pickle cucumber, pickles, beets, onions to name a few.”
And why not, since pickled beets go well with Asian food. Barbara Pleasant, in her book entitled Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round, wrote: “Orange peel, thin slices of fresh ginger, and mustard seeds give pickled beets a flavor profile that pairs beautifully with Asian foods.”
Jamie DeMent, in the book entitled Canning in the Modern Kitchen: More Than 100 Recipes for Canning and Cooking Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats : A Cookbook, has a suggestion: “Asian vegetable soup with pickled beets and onions.”
Pickled beets are also enjoyed in Australia. According to the book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs: History, Botany, Cuisine, “Pickled beetroot is often served cold in salads, as a side dish, or as a condiment. Slices of pickled beetroot are an essential ingredient in Australian hamburgers.”
Pickled beets are sold in glass jars or plastic bottles. Check the plastic seal. It should be intact. If this is broken or damaged, the product may have been tampered with and the quality and safety have been compromised. Do not buy pickled beets if the jar has a damaged safety seal, or if there are other signs of damage like cracks on the glass.
An important part of the packaging is the label, which contains important information for the consumers, including the name of the manufacturer, expiration or best-before date, ingredients, nutritional information, storage instruction, etc.
Enjoying Pickled Beets
An important consideration when it comes to eating pickled beets is their sugar and salt content. If you have a health or medical condition that requires you to avoid or minimize intake of salt and/or sugar, ask your doctor regarding eating pickled beets.
You can eat pickled beets alongside other foods. The taste of pickled beets allows it to go well with many different kinds of foods like red meat, cheese, vegetables like cabbage and carrot, eggs, and many different herbs and spices. Kelly Carrolata, in the book entitled Pickled: From curing lemons to fermenting cabbage, the gourmand’s ultimate guide to the world of pickling, wrote: “The pleasant sweet and sour flavor of the pickled beets works well to offset the richness of the goat cheese and nuts.”
When you eat pickled beets, you will notice how it is different from fresh beets. Different, in a good way. Jerry Apps, in the book entitled Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening, wrote: “With their tangy, slightly sour taste, pickled beets bear little resemblance to the earthy fresh variety.”
Refrigerate pickled beets after opening the jar. A jar of homemade pickled beets can last for months up to a year if refrigerated. For a store-bought jar of pickled beets, consume and store as indicated in the label.
While you can eat pickled beets straight from the jar, you can also use this for cooking. Use it to make a fresh garden salad, potato salad, soups, sauces and dips, or use pickled beets to make a falafel bowl, or perhaps make something sweet and use pickled beets to make cakes or cookies.
Remember this: if the dish you are cooking needs fresh beets, you can use pickled beets as a substitute.
Jeremy Nolen, Jessica Nolen, and Drew Lazor, in their 2015 book entitled New German Cooking: Recipes for Classics Revisited, suggested combining grilled salmon with horseradish and pickled beet. “The combination of pickled beets and horseradish is common in Eastern Europe.”
Making pickled beets itself is not difficult. There are many recipes available online for those making pickled beets for the first time. Here are the basics so you can make refrigerator pickled beets. Roast four medium-sized beets and once these have cooled down, peel and slice the beets into smaller pieces enough to fit a wide-mouthed jar. Prepare the brine by boiling vinegar, water, sugar, and salt, and then let it simmer for a few minutes before setting it aside to cool. Put the brine and the beets in a jar. You can add peppercorns for flavor. Other choices for spice include cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Make sure the brine inside the jar covers all the beets inside. Let the beets pickle. Give it 48 hours. Make sure to keep the jar in the refrigerator.
You get calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, copper, manganese, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and choline when you eat pickled beets. Pickled beets can help boost your energy, improve your immune system, promote healthy bones, and help repair damaged tissues. Eating pickled beets can also help the body stay away from cancer, have a healthy digestive system (because pickled beets, a fermented food, is probiotic), and stay protected from other diseases.