Last Sunday was calm, cool with a bright blue sky. After a busy spell, I at last found a couple of hours to dig up the beetroot crop, better late than never. Not a big patch (7 by 3 feet) but enough to keep me in beetroot for the year. My only worry was that it might be turning a bit woody the way radish goes if left in the ground too long but I need not have worried.
The crop when boiled for 45 minutes was then easy to top and tail and the skin was easily scraped off the warm red roots. While waiting for the roots to cook, the pickling mixture was prepared. Two pints of vinegar, black pepper, sprinkling of root ginger and allspice, two dessert spoons of brown sugar, 4 bay leaves and 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a few finely chopped shallots. Ideally, this would have been left to mature for a week but I needed to get the bottling done quickly so I boiled it up, simmering for a few minutes (an hour is recommended) and left to cool.
Now to chop up the skinned shiney beetroot and fill up the jars. I filled 15, three up on last years harvest. Kept back a couple of raw beetroot which tasted earthy and delicious grated with a salad. I bottled the bulk of the crop, however, as it is quick, nothing goes to waste and the bottled beetroot adds a great flavour to sandwiches in work during the year.
The pickling mixture was poured in to half fill each jar of beetroot. I used the reddened water from cooking the crop to top up each jar. Last year I made the mistake of filling each jar with the pickling mixture and the excessive vinegar was a bit overpowering, so more beetroot, less vinegar this year!
Meanwhile, enough daylight left to separate the garlic cloves out from the bulbs ordered on line from www.fruithillfarm.com based in Bantry, Co Cork. Very impressive overnight dispatch by post. The cloves were spaced 6 inches apart and sown 1 inch below the surface. Hopefully the crop from these cloves will be ready to add to next years batch of bottled beetroot.
A good book on beetroot I would recommend is ‘Beetroot, the Vitality Plant and its Medicinal Benefits’ by Margaret Briggs published in 2007 by Abbeydale Press.