I was strolling in my local organic greengrocer and spotted small golden beets next to a heap of small ruby red beets, a scene that immediately conjured up the vision of deeply colored gold and ruby beets in a canning jar filled with pickling juice. I knew the pickling liquid would quickly take on the jewel-like colors and could envision slipping dill fonds and long thin slices of red chili peppers into the crooks and crannies as well before screwing on the lids.
Within this moment of reverie, I also remembered a salad I used to make in my kitchen in France that was simply a salad frisse, pickled beets, and local goats' cheese. I was now obsessed with making it again, and this time making my own pickled beets……not very sweet ones, but rather something kicked up from a sort of sweet base. Maybe putting in red and green hot chili peppers and doubling the peppercorns in the pickling mixture might work.
This is what it looked like when I finished it! My improvised recipe still needs tweaking, but this version turned out tremendously flavorful and perfect against the vinaigrette in the salad and the creamy gentle goats cheese. It made 2 quart size jars and lasts about two weeks in the fridge. (Next time I will aim for even more heat so that when you bite into the beet you get the heat on the outside, and the sweetness of the beet on the inside).
This is a two step recipe. The first step is to make the pickling juice and let it sit overnight. The second step is to boil the beets, peel them, and then put them into quart size jars with the pickling juice and let them get to know each other in the fridge for a couple of days before using.
2 quart size canning jars
3 pounds of small beets
1 bunch of fresh dill (save some sprigs to decorate the jars)
1 onion, sliced
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 or more pickling spice
1/4 cup juniper berries
4 star anise
2 red chili peppers, sliced into rings or long slivers, including seeds (save one chili for the next day when you will slice them and put them into the pickling jars)
2 green chili peppers, sliced into rings or long slivers, including seeds (save one chili for the next day when you will slice them and put them into the pickling jars)
1/4 cup table salt (canning salt if you can get it)
Step One: Put all the ingredients except the beets into a large pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, then put in the refrigerator overnight or for one day.
Step Two: Drain through a sieve the pickling juice and discard all the pickling spices, so that you are left with just the pickling juice in a large bowl. Slice in the one remaining red chili pepper, and the one remaining green chili pepper.
Boil all the beets for about 1 hour, drain, cool, and scrape the skins off.
Take two sterilized quart canning jars and begin to slice the beets into them. I prefer nice chunks, even halves, in one jar and slices in another jar. Ladle in the pickling juice and add the dill sprigs. Screw on the tops of the jars and put in the refrigerator for a couple of days to marinate.
Once you have your pickled beets marinated, you can make my salad frisee.
Salade Frisee with Pickled Beets and Chevre
This easily makes 4 salad servings.
Your homemade pickled beets
Large bunch of frisee lettuce
1/4 inch rounds of chevre cheese
1 baguette or good sourdough bread
Plate first the pickled beets. Toss the frisee with a vinaigrette and heap high over the beets. Top with a round of chevre cheese. This simple yet satisfying salad is well paired with a great bread warm from the oven.