Canning Beets in 8 simple steps
Pickling turns beets from a divisive to flavorful, nutritious, and long-lasting. Pickling also allows at-home canners to preserve beets without investing in a pressure-canner, making canning more accessible to the modern canner.
Canning pickled beets in water bath canners (or, for greater ease of access, a large stockpot with a wire rack) is an easy, affordable way to both preserve fresh vegetables for later use and add a sweet taste to an otherwise polarizing food. Here’s how to do it!
What You Need
- 8 pint-size jars with canning lids and rings
- Metal rack with handles that fits stockpot
- Large stockpot with lid
- Large saucepans
- Kitchen Towels
- Metal cooling racks (optional)
- Chopstick or similar
- Jar grabber
- Slotted spoon
- Canning funnel (optional)
- 7 lbs beets
- 4 cups 5% acidity vinegar (white or filtered apple cider)
- 1 ½ tsp canning or pickling salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 12 whole cloves
- 4 to 6 onions same size as beets (optional)
The list above includes a large stockpot with a lid and a metal rack in lieu of a water bath canner. If you have a water bath canner, it can be substituted for the pot and rack.
How to can beets (without a pressure cooker)
1. Sterilize Your Jars
Jars and lids must be properly sterilized and free of chips and cracks. Jars and canning rings can be reused, but metal canning lids must be new. To ensure that your canned beets seal properly, you must use new metal canning lids or reusable glass canning lids. Never reuse metal lids, as they will not seal properly after being reprocessed.
If you’re new to canning, The Spruce Eats offers a comprehensive guide to sterilizing jars, lids, and rings which is linked at the bottom of this article (1).
2. Prep Your Beets
Gather your beets, which should be young and small (no larger than 2 ½ inches in diameter). Larger, older vegetables are not ideal for canning beets in a water bath because they will not remain tender after being processed. Trim the roots and tops of the beets, leaving an inch on each end to prevent color bleed. Scrub the beets clean and separate out by size if necessary.
3. Cook and Slice the Beets
Fill a large saucepan or stockpot with water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Add all beets of the same size to the pot and add more water if needed to cover the beets completely. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the beets for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Repeat the process until all your beets have been cooked, then drain and discard the liquid.
Allow the beets to cool so they are safe to handle, then remove the skins, stems, and roots. Slice or quarter the beets into ¼ inch pieces. If you’re using onions, peel and slice them thinly.
Pro Tip: some recipes for canning beets will have you reserve the cooking water, but this will weaken the pickling solution (2), so always opt for fresh water.
4. Make the Brine
In a saucepan, combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and water. White vinegar or filtered apple cider vinegar will both work for pickling beets, but apple cider vinegar will add better flavor (3). Wrap the cinnamon sticks and cloves in a cheesecloth and add them to the pot of vinegar. Bring the whole mixture up to a boil, then add the chopped beets and onions, and cook at a simmer for five minutes.
Once the beets have finished cooking, remove the spice-filled cheesecloth from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
5. Fill the Jars
Using the same slotted spoon, pack your sanitized jars with beets and onions, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Using a ladle and a canning funnel if you have one, pour the hot vinegar mixture over the jarred beets, again leaving ½ inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Before sealing, remove any bubbles from your beets and vinegar with a chopstick, running it slowly up and down the interior of the jar. Wipe down the outside with a clean, damp cloth, then place the lid and screw on the canning ring.
6. Start the Boiling Water Bath
Fill your large stockpot with water and bring it to a simmer. Place your jarred beets on a wire rack with handles and slowly lower it into the water. Make sure the jars are fully covered with at least an inch of water over the lids. Cover the pot, and slowly bring the water up to a soft rolling boil (the jars should not be jostling or rattling).
7. Process the Canned Beets
Let the jars process in the boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Your exact processing time may be longer depending on your elevation above sea level due to the change in atmospheric pressure (4). If you don’t know what your elevation is, you can use WhatAltitude.com to determine your altitude above sea-level.
|Altitude||0-1000 ft||1,001-3000 ft||3,001- 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
|Processing time||30 minutes||35 minutes||40 minutes||45 minutes|
8. Cool and Store
Once the canned beets have finished processing, remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit for five minutes. While the pot cools, cover a table or countertop with clean towels or cooling racks.
Carefully remove the jars one at a time with a jar lifter and place on the covered counters to cool for 12-24 hours. Do not tighten the rings at all during this time. Once the beets have cooled, remove the canning rings and check that the lids have sealed. An easy way to confirm a good seal is to see if the lid has indented. If a jar is sealed, it is safe to store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 12 months.
Pro Tip – label your jars with contents AND the date they were canned. This will help you eat older food before it has time to spoil.
Canned beets are a colorful, flavorful addition to any pantry. Pickling not only adds flavor but ease of access to at-home canners who may not have access to a pressure canner.
Next time you’re looking for a way to incorporate beets into your diet, pickling and canning may be the answer to your dilemma. If you liked this tutorial, read more articles about canning and preserving here – or try a similar method for canning apples, or even peppers if you’re game.
Beets, like most vegetables, do not naturally contain enough acid to kill the bacteria that cause food poisoning and other illnesses. To kill these microbes, you can either pickle the beets, which, according to PickYourOwn.org “adds acid and lowers the pH, making it safe to can in a water bath canner” or you can use a pressure canner (2).
Freshness is key. Look for beets with a deep, vibrant color and unblemished roots and skin. Bruises and soft spots can be cut out if you’re eating produce fresh but shouldn’t be present at all in beets you intend to can. To keep the beets moist before canning, remove the greens when you bring them home and set them aside to use in other dishes (3).
Follow the instructions above, and when you open your canned beets to eat, add some cornstarch. Do not add the cornstarch before pickling and canning, as this will affect heat transfer and could make the pickled beets less shelf stable (2).
- How to Properly Sterilize Canning Jars. Retrieved from: https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-sterilize-canning-jars-1327595
- How to Make Homemade Canned Pickled Beets. Retrieved from: https://pickyourown.org/pickledbeets.htm
- How to Pickle Beets (Quick-Pickling and Water Bath Canning). Retrieved from: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-pickle-beets/
- Preparing and Canning Pickled Vegetables. Retrieved from: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_beets.html