There is nothing more bright and beautiful than a plate of beets to brighten any fall or winter meal. There is a special pride and reward in having part of a healthy, budget- conscious, homemade dinner ready-to-heat from your freezer.
This is the season. Now is the time to buy beets from a farmer’s market or produce store, pull them from your garden or trade with a neighbour and then get them into your freezer.
HOW? Easy. Really!
It takes very little ‘hands-on’ but it does take waiting time for them to cook. Use the time to read Ten More Steps or tap them a note (they’d like that!), do some yoga or plan your next trip.
1. Prepare to Cook
Brush off any loose dirt.
Using scissors, knife or pruning shears, cut the trailing root to about 5cm from the bulb and cut stems to 5 cm from bulb. This stem length is necessary to keep your beets from ‘bleeding’ during cooking; the same reason you should not cut into bulb prior to cooking.
Keep any younger leaves and stems and put them aside to cook as you would spinach (oh so good!); discarded other leaves and roots in compost.
Rinse your collection of trimmed beet bulbs; no scrubbing necessary.
Use a large pot with lid (deep enough to cover your beets with water). Place whole beets in pot, cover with cold water and put on lid. All that’s in there is beets and water; no salt, no oil. If your pot is not large enough to cover all the beets with water and have room to turn them during cooking, divide beets into 2 or more batches. (Start with fresh cold water for each batch.)
Turn stove onto medium-high and timer on for 30 minutes. Once within that time reposition beets within the pot and return lid.
After 30 minutes, test the smallest beet with a fork. When the tines push to the centre of the beet (with only a little pressure), it is time to start skinning. Each beet must stay in the boiling water until a fork pierces through to its centre.
It is best to do this step wearing gloves (surgical-style gloves are handy to have in kitchen and workshop), to avoid pink hands.
It is best to do this step in your kitchen sink, either using a clean sink or a bowl within the sink. Fill sink/bowl with cold water deep enough to accept whole beet.
Close at hand have another bowl filled with fresh cold water; a ‘cooling bath’.
Lift the beet (which has been checked with a fork) from the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Using a small bowl, transfer the beet to the sink (using a small bowl will help avoid red-messes to clean up from stove and counters). Drop the hot beet into the cold water and rub gently with gloved hands. Like a magic trick, the skin and stems immediately slip off.
Run the naked beet under cold water and place in ‘cooling bath’.
Repeat this process with the rest of the beats, working from smallest to largest as each accepts the fork tines to the middle.
As warm naked beets are placed into the cooling bath they will heat the water, so it will be necessary to drain the water and replenish with fresh cold water. Continue doing so until all the beets are done and once or twice afterwards. Leave beets to cool in the bath for an hour or more after the last one is added.
Wear gloves to avoid getting pink hands while cutting. Slice and/or dice as you wish. You may either pack the beets in serving size containers before freezing or cut and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets before putting in freezer. The latter allows beet pieces to freeze individually making them easier to separate (like peas in a bag). After they are fully frozen, they may then be placed in freezer bags or vacuum sealed and returned to freezer until ready to use.
Now it’s up to you to decide how you want to serve them. Perhaps a rustic borsht, sweet-and-sour Harvard beets, a fancy beet napoleon appetizer layering beets with herbed goat cheese, or, the simplest, tossed with butter, salt & pepper. The yummy possibilities are endless and with a few short steps to the freezer, you’ll be ready to create.