You know you’re getting old when you attempt to pluck a hair between your brows and upon close inspection discover it’s actually a wrinkle. Sigh. Perhaps the same can be said about anyone boasting a fondness for pickled beets.  They are soft and they are cheap–perfect for Grandma to store in an ancient Ball jar atop her night stand in the nursing home. To be honest I had never even tried one until last summer.  And then I made these:

Now, roasted beets are another story. Roasted beets are classy and delicious, especially in a salad topped with a panko crusted ball of goat cheese like at Feast in Chicago.  But seriously, you could serve old shoestrings with fried goat cheese and I just might dig in. I typically roast my beets, very much like this. But recently I read a touching post on Food and Fiction. The author’s beloved mother-in-law had passed away and she gave us lucky readers her pickled beets recipe in tribute.

I had a nice bunch of organic beets in my veggie compartment and so, I pondered. Could pickled beets actually be tasty? I like pickled things, I like beets. Why shouldn’t they be earthy, sour, sweet, rich, yet low-fat delights? I definitely didn’t want to waste my beets on Grandma food, so I upped the ante by using whole peppercorns, a little spice and quality vinegar. If you are the sort that buys crushed red pepper in a plastic shaker only to have it sit next to your bay leaves and mustard seeds losing flavor for the next three years, please, do yourself a big favor and but some whole dried chilies and crush at the time you need them. They can typically be found near the Latin foods at your grocery store.

Don’t be surprised if your urine comes out a tinge pink after consuming the beets–at least that’s what happens to me. FYI? Maybe. But I take it as a sign that my body still works and that even though I’m housing pickled beets, a nursing home won’t be housing me anytime soon.

Pickled Beets

1 bunch beets, typically 3 large or 4 smaller

1/2 cup cider vinagar

1/2 cup red wine vinager

1 to 2 whole dried chilies

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns (about 8 or so)

1/2 cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 thinly sliced red onion

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Trim and wash the beets (don’t you dare throw away those beet greens!  They are packed with nutrients, use them cut up in with your salad greens or sauté like spinach).  Wrap each beet tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove and let cool. Peel off the skins wearing rubber gloves, unless you want pink fingers for the next 2 days, which I don’t mind.  Slice and place in glass casserole dish.  Bring water, vinegars and sugar to a boil, allowing sugar to completely dissolve.  Turn off heat and add salt, peppercorns, chili and onion.  Let sit for one minute, then pour over beets.  Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  I put mine into a jar after that for easier, prettier storage.  Eat within one week.