Beets are many people’s favourite home-canned food product.
You can can them in several ways.
You can preserve them as plain beets. These are canned in a pressure canner (there is no other way to can plain beets.)
To serve plain beets, just open and drain: you can reheat them in a microwave or saucepan, or toss in some oil and some dried herbs and roast for a few minutes in the oven for quick-roasted beets that still have a deep-cooked flavour.
Pickles and relishes
Alternatively, you can can beets as acidic food products. These are canned via water-bath canning or steam canning.
The most popular way is, of course, the ever popular pickled beets, which can be flavoured with many different spicing combinations.
There are also chutneys and relishes, such as Red Cabbage and Beet Relish, which call for beets as a key ingredient.
You can’t beet it!
So, just keep clear in your mind which canning method applies to which type of beet product — and enjoy!
There’s always a few weeks at the end of each summer when stores and markets almost pay you to take beets away, so plan ahead a bit and you can have a year’s supply of great beet products to enjoy for a pittance.
What about adding red food colouring to your jars of beets?
Many varieties of beets will fade in colour during the canning process. In fact, only a very few varieties are well-known for keeping their colour, such as Detroit Red. Sadly, usually you can only get these varieties if you grow them yourself.
You could add a few drops red food colouring to the canning liquid in each jar.
We don’t think it’s worth the bother, but people have asked, so we explored the idea.
If you are one of those who does not approve of food colourings, then you can ignore this topic.
However, in these two photos (above and below), you see the difference in two jars from the same batch of beets: the one on the right hand a few drops of red food colouring added, making the beets appear more natural and desirable.
Note though that while many varieties of beets lose their colour during the canning process, many of those also have their colour slowly return in storage as time passes. So you could just wait it out, as most people do.
Home-canned beets turning black
The University of Missouri Extension has this advice about home-canned beets turning black:
What causes a black color in home-canned beets? This condition indicates spoilage. No unusual odor or gas is present. The black color may extend throughout the beet. A distinct medicinal flavor may be present. Iron must be present for the bacteria to develop this color. Iron can come from water, an iron kettle or a chipped enameled-ware utensil. Do not consume.” References: KSU ‘The Food Spoilage Chart’ Weiser: Practical Food Microbiology and Technology.1
The University of Missouri Extension. Quick Answers. Accessed August 2017 from https://missourifamilies.org/quick/foodsafetyqa/qafs200.htm ↩