Maybe your only knowledge of pickled beets are the ones grandma served, but we're here to tell you quick-pickling thick wedges of sweet beets could not be simpler — or more delicious. These easy refrigerator pickles are as vibrantly flavored as they are colored, seasoned with freshly squeezed orange juice and a hint of bitterness from citrus rind.
Here's how to pull them off and use them on everything from salads to sandwiches.
Beet Pickles Are Easy Pickles
With no canning kettle needed or bushel of beets to process, refrigerator pickles are the easy and approachable way to preserve the season's finest produce. Quick pickles are not heat-processed and cannot be stored in the pantry, but they can be stashed in the fridge for a few weeks (or even up to a couple of months).
Making only a jar or two at a time with the small bunches of beets I picked up from the market means I am free to experiment with different flavorings and vinegars — my favorite combo to date is beets, mustard seed, and orange.
Prepping Beets for Quick Pickling
Before you can quick-pickle beets, you'll need to roast them. The beets' sweetness intensifies in the oven's heat, and roasting makes removing the peel a cinch (all you need is a paper towel!). Soft roasted beet wedges also absorb the pickling liquid more easily than crunchy raw beets.
The bunch of beets tied together at the grocery store usually weighs just over a pound. With the beet greens trimmed and saved for salads and sautés, you're left with one pound of beets for roasting and pickling.
Cut your beets into wedges if you're planning on using them to add visual variety to salads and grain bowls. But if you'll be serving them on sandwiches and burgers, slice them instead.
Using Your Pickled Beets
Pickled beets are a classic topping for leafy green salads dressed with crumbles of fresh cheese, and easy to serve alongside brisket and pulled pork. But I usually just fish them out of the jar with my fingers, risking rose-hued digits for the rest of the day.
Fill Your Fridge with Quick Pickles
Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Makes 2 (16-ounce) jars
Prep time: 15 minutes ; cooking time: 50 minutes
1 1/2 pounds
bunched beets, greens removed but leaving 1 inch of the stem (or 1 pound loose beets)
whole mustard seeds, divided
(1/8-inch-thick) orange slices, divided
white wine vinegar
freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 to 2 oranges)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Scrub the beets, but do not dry. Wrap individually in aluminum foil (or wrap a few small ones together in one sheet) and place the packets on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast the beets for 50 to 60 minutes. Check the beets after 30 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water to the foil packets if they look dry or begin to burn. Remove from the oven once a fork or skewer slides easily into the center of the beets. Small beets may cook more quickly than large beets.
While the beets roast, prepare 2 (2-cup) canning jars by washing the jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water and rinsing. Air dry on a clean kitchen towel or dry by hand.
Place 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds into each jar. Place an orange slice in each jar and press to stick to the side.
Once the beets are done roasting, set aside until cool enough to handle. Working with one at a time, rub the beets with a paper towel to remove the skin and skinny root, if still attached. If the skins do not come off easily, the beets probably need to cook longer in the oven.
Cut the beets in half, then cut into 1-inch wedges. Pack the beets into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch of space at the top. Be sure to pack them as tightly as you can without crushing them.
Place the vinegar, water, orange juice, and salt in a large measuring cup or bowl and stir to dissolve the salt. Pour the pickling liquid over the beets, leaving 1/2-inch space at the top of the jar; it's OK if you don't use all of the liquid.
Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Top off with additional pickling liquid if needed. Cover with the lids and screw on the rings until tight. Refrigerate at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours before serving.
Storage: Since these pickles are not canned, they must be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigerate pickles for up to 2 months, but if any off flavors or aromas develop or if fermentation begins, it is best to discard the remaining pickles.