Pickled Beets with Fennel

I had no idea that so many people had such a strong aversion to beets. My beet class last weekend was somewhat under-enrolled, and I kept getting e-mails that said, more or less, “I really want to come and learn how to can, except that I can’t stand beets!” How can I convince you that beets are delicious, nutritious, and beautiful to boot? Will this post help?

Picked beets were a staple in my house as a kid growing up. My mother always goes for your basic pickled beet: nothing but white vinegar, water, and sugar. I usually do, too, but on Saturday my CSA included several heads of fennel. Fennel and beets are a natural pair, so the few dedicated beet-loving souls who attended the Saturday class left with a slightly more sophisticated product. If you don’t like fennel, no problem—just leave it out. If, on the other hand, you like a spicy pickled beet, feel free to add any of the following (but probably not all at once) to your pickling jars: peppercorns, cloves, allspice, star anise, dill heads, garlic, or strips of hot pepper.

Beets are a low-acid food, so please don’t change the proportion of vinegar to water. You can, however, use cider vinegar, so long as it’s at least 5% acidity. Finally, the purpose of the sugar is merely to counteract the tartness of the vinegar and preserve the color—it’s not really involved in the safety equation. Feel free to add more or less, depending on your taste, or to substitute brown sugar, raw sugar, or a sugar substitute. I can’t predict what making all of these kinds of changes will do to the color and texture of your beets, but so long as your acid is 5%, it’s safe for water-bath canning. Finally, be sure to wait several weeks to let the beets develop their full flavor. Then devour at leisure.

Pickled Beets with Fennel

About five pounds of beets
One long fennel frond, cut into seven pieces
7 peppercorns
3 1/2 c. distilled white vinegar (5%)
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar

1) Wash your beets, leaving the roots and 1″ of stems attached. Cook your beets your preferred way. Some options: pressure cooking, boiling, roasting, or wrapped in foil in the crock pot. Cool. If your beets are thoroughly cooked, the skins should slip right off. Leave small beets whole, but cut larger beets into bite-sized pieces (or slice, or quarter, or whatever appeals to you).

2) Make your canning solution. Combine the vinegar, water, and sugar in a small pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, heat water for a boiling water bath, warm your jar lids, and have 7 pint jars ready.

3) Place a piece of fennel and a single peppercorn in each jar. Transfer the beets to the jars and cover with hot syrup. Remove air bubbles and add more syrup if necessary, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Adjust two-piece lids. Process in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes.

4) After the jars have cooled and you’ve checked for seals, be sure to remove the rings. The syrup is sticky, and the rings become difficult to remove if you leave them on too long. Once you’ve opened the jars, you might want to switch to a plastic lid, as the vinegar will quickly corrode a standard canning lid.

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14 comments to Pickled Beets with Fennel

  • Ok, I must admit, I grew up hating beets. It is because they were always pickled. I cannot eat pickled foods. For whatever reason I just can’t get them down. I have, however, learned to love fresh beets. I just love them roasted in the oven and put on a salad with goat cheese and a light vinaigrette. While they do look pretty in the jar I am afraid that beets will not be something I will be able to preserve.

  • I love beets…..husband not so much. I still make tons of beets. I pickle (I’m going to give a try with funnel next) and I pressure can them. YUM!

  • dorisandjilly

    @Donna: You really might want to try pressure canning them, plain. You end up with a jar of plain (salted if desired) beets that you can use in anything you want. They don’t quite have the full flavor of roasted beets, but they maintain their texture surprisingly well. I’ve successfully put pressure canned beets in winter salads and soups, and you’d never know they came from a jar. But of course this does require a pressure canner. Some of the folks at Omega also liked dehydrated beets. Me, not so much.

  • Melissa

    I love beets, especially pickled beets! I use peppercorns and caraway in addition to the recipe you’ve given. A pickled beet salad with greens, nuts, goat cheese, using the pickling liquid in the vinaigrette, is divine! However, some of my gifts of pickled beets have been rejected, or secretly given to others to consume.

  • I’m pulling up our stoop-grown chioggas in a few!

  • Sheila


    Curious if you thought I could use apple-cider vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar. We REALLLLY prefer apple-cider vinegar to all other vinegars. LOVING this site! Likely to become my new favorite!

    Thank you for your time in bringing these great entries and recipes to us!

  • dorisandjilly

    Sheila: Sure! You can use any kind of vinegar you like, so long as it’s 5% acidity. Don’t use homemade cider vinegar, as you can’t be sure of the strength.

  • This sounds delish! I have always wanted to try fennel ~ if I can find it at the produce market I think this is what I’ll be making with my 7 lbs. of garden-fresh beets this week!

    Love your site and looking forward to trying your recipes. 🙂

  • Chris

    So I gave it a try, but in the two weeks that I’ve been waiting for the beets to cure, I’ve become concerned. When I packed the jars and poured the hot liquid over the beets, the liquid didn’t entirely cover the beets. I also may not have packed the beets tight enough because they appear a little loose when I shake the jar. So my question is – did I ruin these beets by not covering them completly with the pickling liquid?

  • Chris

    By the way – thank you so much for posting such wonderful recipes and information on your site. I’m fairly new to it and have been enjoying it very much!

  • Audra, would you pretty please post this to Punk Domestics? I’ve got beets on the brains lately.

  • I have been obsessing over pickled beets. Adding fennel? Yes, please!

  • Mairi Watson

    question for you. I made pickled beets for the first time this weekend. My recipe called for 4 cups vinegar, 2 cups sugar and 2 cups of beet water. I follwed this recipe for at my first batch but just realized this morning that for my 2nd and 3rd batches I believe I only added 2 cups of vinegar (this was not a conscious decision…it was a long day and I simply messed up). My question is, is this a problem? I put all my jars in a waterbath, all the lids “popped” etc. At one point I tasted the brine and it tasted good, albeit “sweet” so I think they taste ok, I am just concerned if the decreased vinegar will affect the preservation of them?

  • Peggy Acott

    I have had a sort of on-again-off-again relationship with beets….but pickled with fresh garlic and cumin seed? Heaven in a jar! Next year when the fennel is ready to harvest I will try that too, it sounds great.