How to can your own homemade canned pickled beets (complete directions with photos )

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How to Make Homemade Canned Pickled Beets

Click here for a PDF print version

You think making and canning your own pickled beets is difficult or expensive?  Not at all!  You can do it with basic equipment already in your kitchen - you just need a canning pot.  And thanks to the vinegar in pickled beets, you can use either a plain open water bath pot or a pressure canner (which will also let you can low acid vegetables!)

So, here's how to can pickled beets!  The directions are  complete with instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. In the winter when you open a jar, the pickled beets will taste MUCH better than any store-bought canned pickled beets! For those of you looking to can "Harvard beets" (which are, essentially, pickled beets with cornstarch added to thicken the liquid), just make these pickled beets, then when you are ready server, heat them and add a little cornstarch. Cornstarch is not recommended for using in canning recipes due to its effect on heat transfer, so it is better to add it at serving time!

Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of about 12 months, and aside from storing in a cool, dark place, require no special attention.

Directions for Making Canned Pickled Beets

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 7 to 8 lbs of Beets (see step 1)
  • 4 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1½ teaspoons canning or pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves  - about 1 tsp
  • 12 allspice nuts (whole) - about 1 tsp
  • 4 to 6 onions (approximately 2 to 2½-inch in diameter) (optional)
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
  • Jar funnel ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • At least 1 large pot
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Ball jars (Publix, Kroger, other grocery stores and some "big box" stores carry them - about $7 per dozen pint jars including the lids and rings)
  • 1 Water Bath Canner OR a pressure Canner (a large pressure  pot with a lifting rack to sanitize the jars after filling about $75 to $200 at mall kitchen stores and "big box" stores, but it is cheaper online; see this page for more about pressure canners). 

Recipe and Directions

Step 1 - Selecting the beets

The most important step!  You need beets that are FRESH and crisp.  Limp, old beets will make nasty tasting canned beets.  Guests will probably throw them at you.. Select firm, crisp beets. Remove and discard any soft, diseased, spotted and chewed up beets.

How many beets and where to get them

You can grow your own, pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. About 7 pounds of 2- to 2½-inch diameter beets makes about 8 pints of pickled beets. I wouldn't use canned beets; what's the point:  Most of the flavor is gone from them, and you can always get fresh beets. 




Step 2 - Prepare the jars and canner

Wash the jars and lids

This is a good time to get the jars ready! The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. Otherwise put the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. I just put the lids in a small pot of almost boiling water for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" (available from target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) to pull them out.

Get the canner heating up

Rinse out your canner, put the rack in the bottom, and fill it  with hot tap water. (Of course, follow the instruction that came with the canner, if they are different). Put it on the stove over low heat just to get it heating up for later on.


Step 3 - Trim the ends and cut into smaller pieces

Just take a sharp knife and trim off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color.

Step 4 -Wash the beets!

I'm sure you can figure out how to scrub the beets in plain cold or lukewarm water using your hands or a vegetable brush.



Step 5 - Cook the beets

Put similar sized beets (hopefully, they're ALL of a similar size so they take the same time to cook) together with enough boiling water to cover them and cook until tender (usually about 30 to 45 minutes in an open pot, or 10 - 15 minutes in a pressure cooker). Drain and discard the liquid (it would weaken the pickling solution).



Step 6 - Cool the beets

You can pour ice over them, or just let them cool on their own.  It's just to cool them enough so you can handle them to remove the skins, stems, roots and then slice or quarter them.






Step 7 - Trim, peel and slice

Trim off the roots and stems. The skins should easily slide off. Slice the beets into ¼-inch slices.  You can leave the beets whole (if they are small, say 1 inch or less), or quarter them or slice them into ¼-inch slices.  This is to help more fit in the jars and to help the seasoning to penetrate them better.


Step 8 - (Optional) Slice the onions.

If you like onions in the mix (most people do), peel and thinly slice the onions.

Step 9 - Make the Pickling Solution

Combine the vinegar, salt, sugar (or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) if you need a no-sugar version) and fresh water in a large pot. Put the spices in cheesecloth bag  and add to vinegar mixture.  Bring to a boil.

Here's a great trick for the spices: get a baby food holder like this one, available at Target and any baby supplies store.  It is made of plastic, and can hold the spices for easy removal later.  It's reusable and has no metal, so it won't react with the vinegar!



Step 10 - Heat the mixture with the beets and onions

Add beets and onions to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove the spice bag.



Step 11 - Packing the beets in the canning jars

This is called "hot packing"! Fill the jars with beets and onions, leaving ½-inch headspace. Pack the jars fairly tightly, but be sure to leave ½-inch of space at the TOP of the jar.  That is called "headspace" and is needed for expansion during heating in the water bath.

Step 12 - Pour boiling cooking liquid into each packed jar

Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with the hot vinegar solution, again allowing  ½-inch headspace. The beets should be covered and there should still be 1/2 inch of airspace left in the top of each jar. Be careful not to burn yourself, (or anyone else - children should be kept back during this step!)


Step 13 - Put the lids and rings on

Put the lids on each jar and seal them by putting a ring on and screwing it down snugly (but not with all your might, just "snug").

Step 14 - Put the jars in the canner and the lid on the canner

Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner.  Make sure the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water.

Step 15 - Process for 30 minutes*

The chart below will help you determine the right processing time and pressure, if you have a different type of canner, or are above sea level. For most people, using a plain open water bath canner, the time will be 30 to 35 minutes. You can use either a plain water bath canner OR a pressure canner, since the vinegar adds so much acidity (if you can vegetables other than tomatoes without adding vinegar, you must use a pressure canner). 


*Recommended Processing times For Pickled Beets in A Boiling Water (Open) Bath Canner



Canned Product Style of Pack Jar Size 0-1000 ft. 1001-3000 ft. 3001-6000 ft. Above 6000 ft.
Pickled Beets Hot Pints or Quarts 30 35 40 45

Recommended process time for beets in a dial-gauge pressure canner.

  Canner Pressure (PSI) at Various Altitudes for Dial-Type Pressure Canners
Jar Size Process Time 0 - 2,000 ft 2,001 - 4,000 ft 4,001 - 6,000 ft 6,001 - 8,000 ft
Pints 30 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Quarts 35 11 12 13 14

Step 16 - Remove the jars

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool on a wooden cutting board or a towel,  without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. You're done!




Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter - to remove lids from the pot of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid - disposable - you may only use them once
  4. Ring - holds the lids on the jar until after the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is it safe to can pickled beets in a traditional water bath? If so how long do you do process them?

A. Yes!  Pickled vegetables have added vinegar which adds acid and lowers the pH, making it safe to can in a water bath canner (or a pressure canner) The table above provides the USDA and Ball recommended processing times for both a water bath canner and a pressure canner.

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This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Lids, Rings, Jars, mixes, pectin, etc.

Need lids, rings and replacement jars?  Or pectin to make jam, spaghetti sauce or salsa mix or pickle mixes?  Get them all here, and usually at lower prices than your local store!

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