We Can Phickle That! – Pickled Golden Beets with Cumin and Basil
We Can Phickle That! is a weekly feature that will run from now through the end of produce season(s), I’ll be hitting up the farmers markets in search of the best seasonal vegetables to ferment. I’ll share my successes and favorite flavoring combinations with you on Thursdays until the produce becomes sad and sparse. If you don’t get the reference, please watch this hilarious video clip that approximately 3,000 of my closest friends and family members have sent me.
My spice drawer and herb garden overfloweth at the moment. More accurately, my spice drawer always overfloweth, and my herb garden currently overfloweth. Maybe it’s my Ukranian and Polish heritage, but I can tell you, there are few things I would rather grow or eat. For the eating, I’ll take a borscht, a roasted beet side or a Detroit Greek salad any day of the week. (Yup! In Detroit, the Greek salads have beets. I suspect this is because the “Greek” salads are really Lebanese salads, but I digress). I grow them because they’re super simple to grow, and even if you end up with a small or nibbled root, you still get the gorgeous greens to eat! I make beet pickles a lot, in fact even pre-fermentation, they were one of my favorite vegetables to pickle. They are also available locally for most of the year, so I can still do my small batch jawn and have year round beet pickles.
A word to the wise on beets and other sweet vegetable fermentation: their intrinsic, natural sugars can sometimes cause a yeastier (read: alcoholier) fermentation. It’s not overwhelming, but can be a bit of a change, and your brine might get a tad more viscous. If you don’t love that taste, mix your beets with less sugary vegetables such as radishes, and you’ll avoid it altogether!
As always, the keys here are avoiding air and providing an appropriate room temperature. My favorite way to keep my vegetables in anaerobic conditions is to keep them submerged under brine. That way, the brine provides a suitable air-barrier. Some people buy jars with airlocks, or special lids with corks and airlocks. I find that the ghetto jar method works perfectly well, and in fact, the only truly failed batch of pickles I ever had were ones I did with one of those special lids. I’m not saying they don’t work, I’m just saying they aren’t necessary, and in my experience do not provide a better end product. As for temperature, the 70 degrees F (around 21 degrees C) has been the best temperature in my experience. You can go up or down a bit on either side of that number, but too much cooler, and fermentation might not start. Too much hotter, and it happens too quickly!
In this case, I used golden beets, but only because I couldn’t find red beets at the farmers market, and I don’t have any ready to pluck from my garden at the moment. The red beets, give the brine a stunning ruby color that makes me happy to leave it out on the table during fermentation. The golden beets produce a golden brine, but it is tinged with a bit of red from the beet skins, so it’s not anywhere near as lovely. Your choice, though. Any beets will do!
GOLDEN BEETS WITH CUMIN AND BASIL
Yield one quart, easily scalable
If you’re new to lactopickling, please check out my Pickle FAQ before you get started!
- 4-5 medium beets, any variety, unpeeled, skanky parts removed with a paring knife
- 1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 cups brine, made from 2 cups room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1/8 cup whole basil leaves, tightly packed
- Slice or chop your beets as you like. I sliced mine to about 1/5 of an inch. I did it by hand, so they are definitely not exact. You can use a mandolin for even slices.
- Put cumin seeds in the bottom of your jar and place beet slices on top of them. I like to lay most of my slices flat, so they are easier to pack in the jar. Beet slices should fill the jar to a 1/2 inch below the jar shoulders.
- Pour brine over beets, until they are covered by at least a thin layer. The beets will give up some of their water as they absorb the salt from the brine. Don’t overfill, or your jar will overflow when this happens. Not a tragedy, but it’ll make a mess.
- Submerge your veggies using the ghetto jar method or the method of your choice, and cover securely with a cloth and rubber band.
- After about 2 weeks, taste a beet slice. If it tastes acidic enough, pack your basil leaves into the top of of your jar, put the lid on, and stick them in the fridge.
- 2 days later remove the basil leaves.
These pickles make a fantastic addition to salads, sandwiches and are even great chopped as a garnish for chili! I like them topped with a dab of hummus, too!