Grandpa’s Pickled Beets

Ominous sliced beets in a jar lit from below.

When I was boy, long before I learned of life’s other certainties (death and taxes), one other thing was certain: Grandpa’s pickled beets. They came out every Easter, along with eggs pickled in the brine. Back then, with much more sensitive taste buds, these were a little intense, but I ate them anyways. I ate everything!

Now, as my grandfather has long since passed away, I’ve taken it upon myself to grow the beets and pickle them so that my mother has a supply. I do the beets, she does the eggs, and Easter is saved!

For those who are scared of beets, or just looking for a brief but entertaining overview, here’s a video:

Note: These can be done as refrigerator pickles if you have a small quantity and plant to eat them relatively soon. Just skip the water bath processing and put the jars in the fridge immediately.


  • 1 pint jar with lid & band per each lb/0.5kg of beets
  • Large stock pot that jars fit in with plenty of headroom, with optional trivet insert or steamer basket
  • Saucepan for brine
  • Sharp knife and non-staining cutting board
  • Gloves and an apron or old clothes you don’t mind staining
  • Canning funnel and band tightener, optional


Along with at least 1lb/0.5kg fresh beets, for every 2ish pint jars you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup distilled vinegar (5%)


  1. Suit up: wear gloves and an apron or old clothes, there will be red everywhere.
  2. Trim and wash the beets. We are going to peel them, so you don’t have to scrub them thoroughly, but at least rinse and brush off any loose dirt.
  3. Boil or steam the beets for 45 minutes. I prefer steaming since it requires a lot less water, just enough to come close to the underside of the trivet. I use the same large pot and trivet that we’ll use later for water bath processing.
  4. Shock beets in ice water. Mostly, this is just to cool them down enough to be handled, the skin will come off regardless if you’ve cooked them long enough.
  5. Prepare the water bath: wash the large stockpot and fill with enough water to cover the jars you’ll be using by an inch. You can put lids on the empty jars and push them under the water to see if you’ve got enough water. Set the pot to boil with the trivet in it (if you don’t have a trivet I’ve seen people use a tea towel wadded up).
  6. You guessed it: peel the beets. You shouldn’t need a peeler, the skin should pinch right off. If it doesn’t… use a peeler.
  7. Slice the beets approximately 3/8″/1cm thick. If the diameter is larger than an inch or two, cut in half first. You may have to quarter the larger ones, or get creative with the monster beets.
  8. Mix together brine ingredients and heat on the stovetop until simmering and fully dissolved.
  9. Pack a pint jar with sliced beets leaving 1/2″ headspace (if you don’t have a canning funnel I recommend it), then fill with hot brine leaving 1/4″ headspace. Do your best to bring any bubbles to the surface—a chopstick helps with this.
  10. Cover with a new lid and screw on the band “finger tight”. I use a band tightening tool for this to keep things simple and consistent.
  11. Add jars to the gently-boiling water bath (it helps to have a set of jar tongs/lifter to lower them in). Boil for 10 minutes, turn the heat off, and either remove jars and cover with a towel or let the pot cool overnight.
  12. Label jars with the date and enjoy your pickled beets.

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Artisan Fermenters: Theresa Keane, Chris P

Fermenters: Daniel Shackelford, Fragnum Opus, Caroline Smialek, Sam Storey, Alana Blue