January has certainly been a different month to what we have become acclimatised to. I have to confess it has been too wet to dig one armed so other than checking the plot now and again we have done very little to either 45 or 47. (Mr P is recovering from shoulder surgery so is certainly in no condition to help right now) The top of 45 has been completely waterlogged as it traditionally does but it is far worse than usual. I nearly lost my boot last time I went up towards the shed. I have also had to be towed off the plot having parked on the grass space at the bottom of 45!
The biggest unexpected change this January is that I found myself digging up several beetroot and pickling them. Normally I've finished pickling by November. (Saying that KP and I did have beetroot and goats cheese tart for Christmas dinner so I shouldn't be too surprised.) However what was surprising was that the beetroot was still very sweet and tender and hadn't gone woody. I've tried a couple of different recipes for pickling beetroot but as always have taken aspects from each and tweaked them to suit our tastes.
My pickled beetroot recipe:
About 1kg of beetroot
1 jar Sarson's Distilled & Spiced Pickling Vinegar 1.14L (I prefer clear distilled to the brown malt pickling vinegar)
500ml of water the beets had been boiled in,
1/2tsp black peppercorns, a couple of pinches of whole cloves and a dried chilli (homegrown) per jar of beetroot.
Thoroughly wash your beets and remove the stalks and any long roots.
Place the beetroot in a large pan and pour enough hot water in to cover the beets.
Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for between 45 mins and 1 hr depending on the size of your beets, checking at regular intervals with a sharp knife. If the knife passes into the beets smoothly then they are ready. Save 500ml of the water from the beets when you drain them.
While your beets are boiling, sterilise your jars by washing them in warm soapy water, rinsing any soap sods away before putting them in a hot oven for half an hour. I set ours to 200C. Turn the oven off to allow the jars to cool. For sterilizing the lids, wash with the jars then soak the clean lids in boiling water for half an hour.
Pour the whole jar of vinegar and the beetroot water into a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes then turn off the heat.
Allow the beets to cool for about 5-10 minutes then carefully peel the beets using a sharp knife. You should find it essentially peels away very easily if rub with the sharp edge.
Slice the beets to the desired thickness, or cube them. (There are alsorts of cutting devices that leave weird and wonderful patterns. I like mine rustic so I chop them about 7mm thick)
Carefully remove glass jars with a clean cloth/oven gloves etc. Then being aware of hot sides carefully place your beetroot slices in the jars until it is about half full. Add the peppercorns, cloves and chilli and then continue to add the beets until near the top of the jar (about 5mm)
Add some sea salt to the top of the beets. (I use a salt grinder) and ladel the vinegar solution over the beets until they are all covered.
Finally carefully screw the lid onto the jar tightly. Repeat until all jars are full. Any excess vinegar can be stored in a sterilised jar for a month, after that it loses its colour.
I like to pop my jars back into a large saucepan of water and bring the water to boil again for 10 minutes then leave the jars to cool in the pan just to make sure everything is well sterilised and ensures the lids have all 'popped'. (I made 6 jars of beets this time and had some vinegar left over.)
Enjoy your homemade pickled beets in a few weeks. As long as jars remain closed and the lid hasn't popped, I've found beets can last at least 6 months if kept cool and well sterilised to begin with.
With half term just around the corner we have been sorting seeds and planning. The aim is to get the first seeds in and start chitting the potatoes over half term. (These are the 2 jobs all the Little P's enjoy.) If we have a few dry days, we will head up to the plots and hopefully get digging.
As always I will continue to blog and share our succeses and our failures along the way. Thanks for reading and here's to a good 2016 harvest.
Keep digging ;)