Thanksgiving Pickles

It was a beautiful fall day today here in the Bay area. After a busy week at work that included some out of state travel, I promised myself that I wouldn’t plan anything this weekend and just live it minute by minute.

This is the weekend before Thanksgiving so I had fun shopping for Thursday’s dinner. First I visited the Downtown Berkeley Ecology Center Farmers Market for a few basics – potatoes, onions, mushrooms – but I also picked up some ingredients to make pickles and kimchi because I am always hungry for pickled foods this time of year. Plus, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a pickle plate! I visited the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland for specialty foods including very fresh seafood from Hapuku Fish Shop, locally produced meats from Marin Sun Meats, and world class wines from Paul Marcus Wines.

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

I didn’t can my grandmother’s pickled beets this summer so I decided to make a “quick pickle” recipe that was shared with me by Jane Wilson Morton, the niece of the co-owners of Werth and O’Brien’s Deli in Flatbush. Brooklyn. This German deli is long gone but I was able to publish this recipe in my book Pickled (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003). This recipe can be prepared 1-3 days before enjoying, and can be made without sealing jars in a hot water bath. It’s very simple and tasty!  Click on the image below to see the full recipe.


Werth and O'Brien's Pickled Beets

Werth and O’Brien’s Pickled Beets


In addition to beets, I made a jar of pickled cherry peppers (again for the refrigerator) and I began salting two heads of Napa cabbage that I bought of the farmers market today for kimchi. I also roasted some red jalapeno peppers to make a spicy version of romesco-style sauce to accompany roasted Brussels sprouts.

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Through the years I’ve had fun posting to this blog about Thanksgiving, including a post dedicated to family favorites like Thanksgiving dressing. If you aren’t sure how to make Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing, be sure to check out that link for inspiration. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.


Pickling Beets

Here is a pickle recipe that I like to put up every year.  I used cylinder shaped beets for this recipe and cut into thick slices.  The recipe makes enough brine for 4 pints but I didn’t have enough beets to fill 4 pint jars.  Two bunches of these beets filled 2 1/2 jars.  I could have used another bunch of smallish beets but I didn’t want to leave the house again.  If you have a similar issue with more brine than beets, use the brine to pickle some hardboiled eggs.  Just boil and shell a few hardboiled eggs and submerge them in this colorful brine.  Cover with a lid and place in the fridge overnight.

Homemade Beet Pickles… almost as good as Grandma used to make

Even a few jars like this are good to have on hand for green salads adorned with fresh goat cheese and roasted nuts. Serve for lunch the next day with a Tuna Nicoise Salad.

Here’s the recipe from my book, Pickled: Preserving A World of Tastes and Traditions (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003).  My Aunt Judy thinks it may be the one my Grandma Patton used alot.  You can read the whole story on pages 84-85.


Adapted by Author Lucy Norris (from a recipe contributed by Judy Lowther), Pickled, Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions

Makes 4 pints


15-18 small to medium red beets, whole, unpeeled, scrubbed with greens removed (leave an inch of stem attached to root)

2 cups white sugar

2 cups water

2 cups white vinegar

(make spice bag using cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine)

1 tablespoon cinnamon or 1 piece of bark (ground will escape the bag- that’s OK for cinnamon but not other spices)

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Immerse beets in water, and bring to boil until tender—boil approximately 10-15 minutes. Under cold running tap water work your fingers to easily slide off skins and softened root stems and discard into compost bin.  Slice or quarter cleaned beets to uniform size and set aside in a large saucepan.  In a separate pan, combine the spice bag, sugar, vinegar, and water together and bring to a boil.  Remove spice bag.  Pour brine over cooked beets and simmer 15 minutes.  Fill hot sterilized jars with beet mixture and process for 10-15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before storing.  Store sealed jars at room temperature for at least 3 weeks for flavor to develop.  Sealed jars will keep for up to a year.  Refrigerate after opening. Unprocessed jars can be refrigerated and are edible up to 6 months.

Home Canning Day 2011

Canned 21 jars using 4 recipes in 6 hours

Every summer I dedicate at least one afternoon to putting food by.  It’s not planned very far in advance. In fact this year I made the decision on Thursday afternoon on my way home from the Bellevue Farmers Market to pickle and can on Friday.  I had a box of tomatoes ripening fast at home, but I found the ideal small and tender pickling cucumbers from Willie Green’s Organic Farm and some fresh flowering dill from Alm Hill Gardens, for further motivation.

2.5 lbs of small, tender cucumbers from Willie Green's Organic Farm. Not easy to find, you'll have to grow them yourself or find them at the farmers market in season. The small cucumbers (approximately 3-4 inches long and 1 inch wide) make the best pickles in my opinion.

4 pints of spicy cucumber dills. The recipe is adapted from the Dill Pickle recipe in my book (page 30) Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions. The recipe was given to me by my Aunt Judy Lowther.

I had accumulated a couple of pounds of chiogga beets and some wax beans from the Growing Things Farm CSA share so the canning plan came together like this:  7 pints and 2 quarts canned tomatoes, 4 pints spicy cucumber dills, 6 jars pickled jalapenos, 1 refrigerated quart of pickled beets and 1 pint pickled wax beans.

Rinsing beet root before boiling.

Werth and O'Brien Pickled Beets

I used up jars and bands that I saved from last year and I buy extra new lids each year in various sizes to minimize last minute trips to the hardware store.  I made do with what I had on hand and it worked. After six hours I put up twenty-one jars of shelf stable pickles and tomatoes using three recipes, and assembled one quart crock of Werth and O’Brien’s pickled beets for the refrigerator. The recipe is adapted from my book, Pickled: Preserving A World of Tastes and Traditions (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003).

Werth and O’Brien’s Pickled Beets

Werth and O’Brien’s Delicatessen was located  in the Flatbush part of Brooklyn (Flatbush Avenue and Clarendon Street) in New York until the 1970’s.  Among the many house-made specialities, the store displayed trays of loose pickles behind the deli counter.  The deli is long gone, but the recipe for the house-made pickled beets survives thanks to Jane Wilson Morton, a grand-daughter of the owners Frank O’Brien and Otto Werth.  Jane contributed two German-style recipes for my book and there is a fun black and white photo of the owners inside the deli circa 1950’s (hint: It’s on page 86).

Serves 8-10

4 cups of cooked sliced beets (approximately 2.5 lbs.)
1 cup of white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice tied into a cheesecloth bag or tea strainer

Boil the whole raw beets with the stem intact until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain over the sink and let cool.  Use your hands to slide the skins and stems off the root and then compost. Slice beets into a bowl, glass crock or quart jar and set aside.

To make the brine, combine the vinegar, sugars and spice bag in a saucepan over medium high heat and stir to dissolve sugars.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes until it forms a thin syrup.  Carefully pour the hot syrup over the cool sliced beets (a glass bowl is best), remove and discard the spice bag and let cool.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days so the beets absorb the flavors.  Keep refrigerated and these beets will stay good and safe to eat for weeks up to a couple of months. They are so good, you won’t need to store them very long.

Jane suggested add thin rings of red onion to the cooling mixture.  This is a quick pickle recipe and it’s delicious using any kind of beet.  This time I used chiogga beets.

6 jars of jalapenos and one jar of wax beans using the same brine as the chiles. I'm anxious to see how they turn out.