Witching Up a Recipe

Nothing says summer picnic to me like sweet and tangy pickled beets. You can buy your fried or broasted chicken at any number of fast food places. Purchase a pint of potato salad at the deli counter, and pick up a watermelon from the produce stand. But pickled beets—really good pickled beets, are a work of kitchen magic.

My mother was an excellent cook, the kind who used a pinch of this and a dash of that, a few cups here, a handful there—stir and taste until it’s just right. When she cooked from scratch the results were five star.

She was also a busy woman and her forte was “doctoring” things up. That meant sometimes starting with store bought sauce, packaged macaroni and cheese, or other convenience packaged, canned, or frozen mainstay. Then she added her own magic touch. I do the same, but I prefer to call it witching things up.

Back to the beets. My mother made, hands down, the best pickled beets I’ve ever tasted. Judging from the request she received for the recipe, they are the best pickled beets just about anybody has ever tasted. And it takes less than 10 minutes to make them.

Refigerator Pickled Beets

  • 2 Cans Sliced Beets (with liquid)
  • I Medium to Large Onion
  • 1.25 Cups White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Vinegar
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Quart Jar (with cover)

Pour juice from both cans of beets into saucepan, about 1.5 cups. Add generous 1 cup, (up to 1.5 cups) vinegar. I use half apple cider and half white vinegar; I like my pickled beets a bit tangier than they are sweet. Add sugar sliced onion and cloves. Bring to boil. Fill jar to 1/4 with canned sliced beets, then pour brine with onions to cover. Repeat this process until jar is filled, alternating beets and liquid with onions. Cover jar, let cool then put in refrigerator. Wait at least 24 hours before serving. If you can, wait a little longer to give the flavors a chance to develop and blend—it’s worth it. These will keep several weeks in refrigerator—but once you open the jar you’ll eat them all before that.

I alternate adding beets and liquid into the jar simply to distribute the onions throughout. You can add more vinegar or sugar to your personal taste, and yes, taste the brine while cooking until you get it just right . . . I wouldn’t know any other way to cook.

You can make this recipe with fresh beets, and I’m not going to argue that it will enhance the already delicious ambrosia. Simply clean, peel and precook the beets, and use the beet water. But honestly, if you buy a good quality of canned beets this recipe is hard to beet (lol) for it’s flavor and ease of preparation.

It’s up to you whether you share the bounty—or share the secret ingredient . . . “You’ll never believe I made it with canned beets!”

When I’m asked what the secret is, I just say, “It’s magic.”

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