14 November 2011

Freezing and pickling vegetables

When our garden is in full production, we have too much food to eat all of it fresh. Often we give some to family and friends but when there is too much beetroot or enough silverbeet or beans to sink a ship, the excess is picked and processed in the kitchen. Recently we had a patch of beetroot that needed to be harvested so it was all pulled out and I made pickled beetroot. This is such a common thing in Australia and there are always tins of it in every supermarket so many people have forgotten that home made pickled beetroot far outweighs the poor tinned cousin for taste and value.

I tried the Women's Weekly Preserves cookbook recipe for these beetroot and they're really delicious. It's one of the easiest pickled vegetables you can make. Wash the beets thoroughly, then cut the leaves off without cutting into the beetroot, boil until tender (about 45 minutes), drain and allow to cool. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water to mix with the vinegar (recipe below). When they're cool enough to handle, it's very easy to just skip the skins off with your fingers. Cut them up however you prefer, then place in sterilised jars and fill the jars with hot spiced vinegar. The three large jars I made will be stored in the fridge and eaten over summer but could also be stored in the cupboard for six months as long as you're confident with your sterilising and sealing. The high vinegar and sugar content act as a preservative, preventing the growth of bacteria in the sterile jar.

1 litre/quart cider vinegar (I used malt vinegar)
220g (7.7 oz) sugar
½ cup of cooking water
1 small cinnamon stick (I didn't use that)
8 black peppercorns
4 small dried chillies
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil, and pour it hot over the beetroot in the jars.

It's a very easy job to just slip the skins off with your fingers.  Don't worry, the red stain washes off.
Here are the beets I did last week, some sliced, some quartered, packed in sterile jars and ready for the hot spicy vinegar.
Four bags of blanched fresh beans, out of the garden and in the freezer within the hour. These will be very handy when the beans have finished for the season.

Other vegetables, like beans, silverbeet, spinach, peas and carrots, only need blanching to be stored in the freezer for eating later when the garden isn't producing as much. Always blanch; it slows the action of enzymes on the vegetables which can cause loss of flavour, colour and vitamins.

How to blanch vegetables.

There is no doubt about it, when you have a backyard patch, you need to learn about preserving food too, otherwise you'll end up wasting some of it. But if you do that, if you learn these few basic skills, you'll have a good supply of fresh and frozen food to keep you going. I know my north American friends would generally can beans, carrots and many other vegetables. Here we do it differently, here we have a longer growing period and we generally use fresh most of the year, supplemented by the frozen stores.

Don't forget that you can also use these skills on cheaply bought vegetables that you might find at the market or supermarket. If you have too much of any vegetable, think about the best way to store it for later. If you pickle or freeze it before it loses its freshness and you'll get the full value of your money. I think that once you get a taste for home pickling and you see how easy blanching and freezing are, there will be no going back.


  1. I love pickled beetroot, but my Mum used to make the excess into beetroot chutney, which always disappeared rapidly. You had to get in the queue quickly (and promise to return the jar) if you wanted a supply!

  2. On the weekend I investigated some olives that I've had in brine solution for nearly 5 Months. They're delicious! The olives were given to me by a friend at work so I've made up a jar of chilli olives for her as a thank you.

  3. Hello, Rhonda. Preserving season is over here for the year, but I was able to put up a bit of applesauce and zucchini earlier this fall. My favorite method of preserving is freezing, since it is fast.

    Your beets look wonderful.

  4. Hi Rhonda,
    do you think it's worth investing in a small chest freezer to freeze excess produce?
    have a wonderful day, Madeleine

  5. I recently picked a huge batch of beetroot from our garden, in the past like you, I have always simply stored them in sterile jars, but I did a little research, and decided I wouldn't risk any potential contamination, as I made about 12 jars and wanted to store them for quite some time, so I preserved mine in a water bath, which was a new technique to me. The jars are only a couple of weeks old ATM but it will be interesting to see how they go in a few months...if they last that long.

  6. Most of my extra produce has gone in the freezer, but I tend to run out of space, so next year I'll try my hand at canning. I love anything pickled, especially carrots, radishes, and cucumbers. Your beets look lovely. By the way, we are addicted to your self-saucing chocolate pudding recipe over here. It is SO good! I linked to it in my post yesterday (hoping that's okay with you).


  7. This is what I absolutely love about you, Rhonda, you give advice that's not intrusive (like "I know better") but kind and welcome. More often than not I feel like a know-it-all who can't take any advice, but your posts are always so interesting and enjoyable, and from a "this is how we do ir here" perspective, that I find your words endearing, sincere and wise and I follow your advice.

  8. Hi Rhonda...thanks for the beetroot recipe, i used another of yours last year for the beetroot and it was lovely...have been trying to get the time to do the bunch i have sitting in the fridge so this is a good reminder!
    We have been freezing a lot of veg although i must admit i don't always blanch...i didn't really understand why we blanch so thank you for the explanation...i think i 'blanch' for too long and half cook them!
    Might be able to turn the beetroot water into a good craft activity for the girls!
    Have a lovely day.
    Jode x

  9. I made pickled beets (as they are called here in Canada) for the first time this year. My boyfriends grandparents gave us a HUGE harvest from their garden and my dad absolutely adores them pickled, so I made 6 jars of them to give to him for Christmas. I can't wait to see the look on his face when he sees them, as my mom doesn't care for them (actually none of us do!), so he hasn't had them homemade since his mother used to make them. I love that such a simple, frugal gift will be more cherished than anything I could have purchased from the store for him! I will have to give them a try when he opens them up, just to see if my opinion of them has changed at all.

    Hope you are having a lovely day,



  10. I always preserve my beetroot,chutneys,pickles, and jam in my Fowlers jars(water bath method) and when I freeze beans and other veges I place them on a tea towel to mop up excess moisture, then on a baking tray spread out individually and then freeze. Once that happens then I place them in a zip lock bag. This stops them freezing in a blob when you put them in a bag after blanching.

    Chris at Coffs Harbour

  11. A couple of other things my family has long done with beets... is to shred the root and quickly saute with a slice or two of finely chopped (and already mostly cooked) bacon as a side dish. This freezes nicely in a ziplok-style bag if you want to save some for later consumption. We also use the tops much the same way as they taste like chard or spinach when cooked.

  12. Jo, I have beetroot chutney in mind for the next batch of beetroot.

    Madeline, I couldn't store all our produce from our garden if we didn't have a chest freezer. I think they're a valuable addition to the kitchen because it will also enable you to buy meat in bulk.

    Busy mum of 3, I use water bathing for some thing but I've never found pickled beetroot needs it. Of course, these things always depend on your own weather - especially if you're in a high humidity region.

    That's fine, Jaime.

    Thanks Diana.

    Jode, I'm sure the girls would love tie dyeing with beetroot water. It's a lovely shade of pink.

  13. Brenna, what a lovely and thoughtful gift. :- )

  14. Hi Rhonda, I am a new member as of yesterday to your site, and I'm loving it. I haven't pickled beetroot for years, reading this made me remember the smell, and my mouth watered! Reading this site, and the articles in the AWW has motivated me to go back to my old ways - in the last few days I've made the citrus cleaner, dishwashing liquid, liquid hand soap and yesterday I made up your laundry detergent. And last night I made a huge batch of soup with a ham hock I had in the freezer, frozen leftover canned beans, and whatever fresh vegetables I could find. Including cherry tomatoes and herbs I grow on my balcony. After reading about you I've learnt that we live about 20 minutes apart. Your life sounds wonderful, so satisfying and where I would like to head in the next few years. Best wishes, KathrynA

  15. I blanched and froze a heap of green beans on Saturday, I took photos to do a post but haven't got there yet.

  16. I LOVE beetroot on my hamburgers but I remember one year Mum made a beetroot jelly mould to have with Christmas lunch - ewww - it was gross.

  17. Oh yeah - I meant to ask - did you have any success plaiting your onions/garlic?
    I tried to do it last year and hung them in the pantry - usually during the middle of the night I would hear a bonk of an onion slipping out of the plait and banging onto the floor!
    Won't be long (well, about 2 months) til I harvest my onions & garlic and I've yet to find any info about a good plait!

  18. Oh hang on!
    I just saw Hanneke's link!

  19. I do not know what silver beet is but here in North Carolina Us I am able to grow beets from fall to summer. We use the tops and baby beets like chard. And the beet roots I like roasted and pickled. I seem to eat them fresh and have few to put up. I have started canning again though and have refitted my harvest fold pressure canner from the early '70's. I truly enjoy reading your blogs.

  20. I have lots of problems with the weight of a pot of beetroot (can't pick it up safely, and definitely can't tip the water out safely), so I peel and slice them first, and then cook them in smaller batches in the microwave. My Dad tells me this is Wrong, but I've noticed it doesn't stop him scoffing down the results... :P

  21. Just what I needed Rhonda, a beetroot recipe.

    My beetroots are ready and waiting for me...Thank you :)

  22. Jill, silverbeet is what we call chard.

    Freyaw, with all due respect to your dad, there is no wrong, we all just do what works.

  23. Another fantastic post - thanks! I didn't know that you could freeze silverbeet? We always have heaps of plants - between us, the dogs & the chickens we need to.

  24. Hello everybody,

    I know the feeling when you open a jar full of the goodies from the summer. My personal best are beetroots done by my mom. Grated, seasoned, cooked, put into the jars and magiclllly tasty, mouthwatering, simply delicious...
    The post and the comment made me a "beetroot sick" so I will check what she is up to and pop in for some dinner;)Til the next time

  25. Hi RJ

    I have a yummy beetroot relish on my blog if you are looking for one.

    lis xx

  26. Why just this weekend I was contemplating getting a small freezer. I am quickly being overcome by produce and with all the yummies I will soon be harvesting and the goodies I will be making for Christmas I am starting to panic about our storage ability.
    Food production is definitely a multi-faceted thing =)
    Thank you for the blanching link. I haven't done the cold bath before. Hopefully it will cure the occasional mushiness of my veggies. I do love them crisp.
    Trinidad & Tobago

  27. My grandma always made pickled eggs using her pickled beets. Boy were they ever good. She always had a homemade apple pie and a jar of pickled eggs and beets in her fridge. Such great memories of her in her apron in the kitchen preparing simple good food!


  28. I would just like to say that when I pickle raw vegetables I let the pickling vinegar cool - if you add it hot it tends to make the veg loose their crispness. This is especially important for pickled onions!

  29. My brother and I exchanged produce this week and for a couple of dozen duck eggs he gave me a jar of his delicious pickled beetroot(done with white wine vinegar) and an assortment of fresh garlic, silverbeet, spring onions and green beans. I think I ended up with the better part of the exchange as the ducks did all the labour!

  30. I've a couple of beetrooty comments, I just wondered if you ever baked the beetroot before pickling? I had a friend used to that, said they were sweeter and tastier than when boiled. Never put the oven on specially, just when something else was cooking.
    Another person I knew didn't like the "mess" pickled beets made on her plate! She would pack drained pickled beets into a loaf tin and cover with pineapple jelly, sliced it when set. She would never say if she used any of the pickling liquid in the jelly. Anyway, food for thought!


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