Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Pennsylvania Treat

Pickled beets and red beet eggs are one of my grandmother's classic recipes. We rarely ate plain hard-boiled eggs (they were pretty much just for Passover), but these made regular appearances on our dinner table.

Her recipe for pickled beets was published in Heirloom Cookbook: Recipes Handed Down by Jewish Mothers, but didn't really describe the way she made them. The full recipe, as written, is:
"Cook beets, then peel and slice. Cook 1/2 C white vinegar, 1 C or
more water, add 3 Tbsp sugar. Boil together. Add 1 slice of chopped
onion. Add beets. Let set 24 hours before eating. Delicious!"
When I asked her for clarification (like how many beets I should use) she said she actually just uses "a big can" of cooked beets, but if I insisted on using fresh, about 2 pounds, peeled and chopped in chunks would do it. And then she told me to use 1 C vinegar and 1/2 C water. And although the recipe only calls for a slice of onion, she always puts in 1 onion, sliced.

You may have noticed that the original recipe doesn't have eggs; she always added them, too, I think on the philosophy that once you'd made the brine, you should get as much use out of it as possible. Here is the recipe with her modifications:
Esther Ann's Pickled Beets
  • 2 lbs red beets
  • 1 C white vinegar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • peeled hard-boiled eggs (however many you'd like, provided they'll fit under the brine in your jar)
Heat the oven to 375F. Gently clean beets, being careful not to pierce their skins. Wrap beets in foil, and bake until tender (1 1/2 - 2 hours, depending on size). Let cool and remove skins. Slice or cut into chunks. Layer with onions in a large jar and set aside.

Heat vinegar, water, and sugar over medium-high heat until boiling. Pour the brine over the beets and onions. Add eggs. Refrigerate for at least a day before eating. The brine can be reused - I generally just keep adding new eggs until they no longer take up much of the brilliant ruby color of the beets.

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