Pickling makes a great dinner-cocktail combo at home good all winter long

The trifecta: A jar of homemade pickled beets, a pickled beet, goat cheese, prosciutto & arugula panini & a pickled beet juice cocktail.

Come October, end of season vegetables are cheap and abundant, but what to do, if you can’t eat all those vegetables before they go bad? It is the perfect excuse to start pickling at home. And there’s no better money-saving multi-use ingredient to have when it comes to fueling tasty quick meals and cocktails at home, than pickled vegetables!

In recent years, pickles have become popular in cocktails and shots at bars throughout the country. The rise of the pickleback as well as the pickle martini created an increased demand for pickles and pickle juice in drinks and as mixers.

Bua bar in the East Village was the originator of the pickle martini. When asked about why people like this briny drink, Simon Gibson, creator of the pickle martini at Bua said, “When we opened, the dirty martini was the only savory cocktail that we could think of — now there are lots of others — and we wanted to put a twist on it, so we started making them with pickle juice. People would usually drink two or three — never just one. I think it’s so popular because it’s a savory cocktail. The pickle brine adds a bit of umami flavor that makes it really craveable; it’s terrific in housemade bloody mary mix as well.”

But people aren’t just getting excited about pickle-cocktail combos, restaurants throughout the city have jumped on the pickle craze by pickling a variety of vegetables and fruits in-house. Lower East Side bar and restaurant Boulton and Watt, offers up to seven different pickled vegetable options, and three different juices for picklebacks. “We change our pickle menu seasonally about six times a year. And our cocktail menu seasonally about five times a year. Whatever product is in season and comes in we use it. Like right now we are getting a lot of beets from upstate New York,” chef and owner at Boulton and Watt, David Rotter said.

When asked about his pickling techniques Chef Rotter said the key is to have a simple base you can build on. “When you buy pickles pre-made it defeats the purpose of being creative. Doing it yourself keeps it unique,” Chef Rotter said, “You need to find what you like. I like tart pickles, but it depends on your flavor profile. Once you have a simple base you can expand upon that to make it your own.”

Another tip for pickling at home is to have a straightforward recipe to begin with, but to use your imagination as you go forward, owner of Rick’s Pick’s and cookbook author Rick Fields said. “Making pickles is similar to making soup from scratch, you can dial things up as you go, and it changes every time you make it at home,” Fields said. The versatility of the final product is an added bonus. “There is a high level of flexibility with pickling. You have to consider not just the pickles, but using the pickle brine and the jar fully as well,” Fields said.

Any vegetables can technically be pickled, but when choosing a vegetable that can last for a long time it is best to choose one that is more hardy and less water-based, Chef Rotter said. “We pickle a lot of different produce, but we go through it quickly in the restaurant. For pickling at home some things can’t last that long and will just turn to mush,” Chef Rotter said.

Beets are a good option for pickling at home and for multi-use recipes as they are hardy and have a slight sweetness to them. Jen Griffith, the Director of Agriculture at Queens County Farm said beets are one of her favorite vegetables to preserve at home, as she loves kavas, a type of fermented beet drink. “We have tons of beets right now, and as far as a fermenting, I love to make cocktails out of kavas,” Griffith said, “It’s a nice salty savory cocktail.”

One way to utilize the entire product is creating a sandwich using the pickled beets, and a cocktail using the pickled beet juice. Pickled vegetables are a flavorful addition to almost any meal, but a tip to making an easy fast meal at home is utilizing other ingredients that you have in your fridge already that can last a long time, like aged cheeses, aged meats, and hardy greens. The recipes below give you just that: how to create quick pickled beets, a tasty sandwich combining the pickled beets with other long lasting products, and a savory beet juice cocktail to go along with your meal. The real beauty of pickling is that you can make the pickled beets whenever you have time and then reap the rewards in the form of sandwiches and cocktails for months to come.


Jar of freshly made homemade pickled beets

Pickled Beets Recipe

Makes about two one-pint self-sealing jars or 32 ounces. Double the recipe if you want to make in bulk.

Total time: 3 1/2 hours

Cook time: 30 min.

Rest time: 2 hours

Chill time: minimum 1 hour

The basic ingredients for a classic pickle brine are vinegar, water and salt and sometimes sugar — depending on whether you are making bread and butter pickles or classic dill pickles. For any pickled vegetable though you can take this basic recipe and tailor it however you like. For pickles or pickled green beans, many people put whole garlic cloves, peppercorns and dill heads in the jar. For pickled beets many people use whole cloves and allspice in the jar. This is just my variety, but be creative!

What you will need:

  • Two (or more) sterilized pint-size glass jars

You can use any jars you’d like, but I recommend the old-school Ball or Kerr glass jars, which have self-sealing lids. They go for about 75 cents to $1 a piece online, or at your local Target /Walmart superstore. You are welcome to use any sterilizing method you prefer, but here is my quick shortcut method.

  1. Start by washing the jars thoroughly with soap and hot water, making sure there are no food particles or other substances left on the inside or rim of the jars.
  2. Preheat the oven to about 280 degrees.
  3. Fill each jar halfway with cold water.
  4. Place in the microwave for around three minutes on high or until the water is boiling.
  5. Once you see the beginnings of boiling water, take the jars out of the microwave and pour the remaining water in the sink. Be careful taking the jars out of the microwave as the glass will be very hot.
  6. Place the jars in the oven upside down on the top rack. Allowing them to dry slowly. It should take about 15–20 minutes.
  7. Don’t take out until you are ready to fill them, they need to stay warm so that they don’t break when you put the boiling brine into them.

Ingredients:

  • 8 -10 medium fresh beets
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups cooking liquid (from the beets)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 small cinnamon sticks

Directions:

  1. Rinse and scrub the beets to remove any excess dirt. Once cleaned off, cut off the greens leaving only about 1/2 inch of the stems left on top of each beet. You can discard the greens, but if you want to keep them they are very good sautéed with olive oil and garlic.
  2. Take out a 3 quart pot and place the beets in the bottom. Then cover them with about two inches of water and leave the pot uncovered on high heat until the water starts to boil.
  3. Once the water has boiled, cover the pot partially and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the beets simmer for about 20 minutes or until the beets are tender and can be pierced with a fork easily.
  4. Remove from heat to drain, but make sure to reserve at least two cups of cooking liquid. Drain the rest.
  5. Place the beets on a cutting board to cool. It should take about 5–10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime get out a medium-sized saucepan. Over medium heat combine the apple cider vinegar, cooking liquid, salt, honey, ginger, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. Stir constantly until everything has been dissolved but the cinnamon sticks and then bring to a boil uncovered. Stir occasionally as needed.
  7. While the brine is heating take the cooled off beets and start peeling off the outer skin. You know they are done because the outer skin should be fairly easy to peel . Take the top where the stem is and twist off this part gently. Once this is off slide your fingers down the beet and the skin should easy slip off with this motion. Be gentle as the beets are tender, so repeat this until all the skin has been removed.
  8. Once the beet are peeled, slice them into whatever size you would like. I enjoy 1/4 inch round slices, but you can quarter them or slice to your own size preference.
  9. At this point the brine should have started to boil, turn off the heat and continue to stir. In between stirs, take out the sterilized jars from the oven and place on top of a towel or coaster on the counter. They will be hot, so handle with care.
  10. Start placing the sliced beets inside the jars leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space from the top of the jar.
  11. Once the beets have been packed in, start ladling the brine into the jar slowly. Pour over the beets until you reach about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.
  12. Repeat for as many jars as you’d like to make.
  13. Before sealing, make sure there are no bubbles inside or on top of the mixture. You can stir with a sterilized plastic or silicone spatula to release the bubbles if necessary. Once the bubbles are gone, wipe the rims clean.
  14. Next place the canning lid on top of the rim of the jar. The lid has two parts, so you are just placing the flat lid part with rubber seal on first. Make sure to line it up as close as possible on the jar rim because this is the self sealing part of the lid. Once it is placed on top and lined up with the rim take the outer metal ring or metal band and close it tightly around the jar to make sure it seals correctly.
  15. Let sit on the counter until it has cooled down to about room temperature, about 1–2 hours.
  16. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to chill. It is better to leave it for longer so that the brine has time to work. You can store it unopened in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator for up to three months. Once opened it can stay in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Pickled beet, goat cheese, prosciutto and arugula panini

It’s always satisfying to be able to make a sandwich from things you have lying around in your fridge. This sandwich was invented from just that: mixing things that have a long shelf life and can last in the fridge to create something delicious and healthy. Mix and match ingredients with whatever you have on hand. I like to keep a type of aged soft cheese, pickled vegetables, an aged meat and arugula — one of the only greens that lasts for more than a few days — in my fridge at all times. It is best on a toasted baguette, but any type of bread you have on hand, including pita or tortillas, could work as well. Enjoy!

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 7 minutes

Serving Size: 1 panini sandwich

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta roll or any bread you prefer
  • 6–10 pieces of pickled beets — depending on size
  • 3 oz of Goat cheese or any type of creamy/ spreadable cheese you prefer
  • 3 slices of Prosciutto or any type of aged meat you prefer
  • handful of arugula
  • drizzle of balsamic glaze
  • drizzle of Olive oil
  • pepper to taste

*For a tangier flavor swap goat cheese for creamy blue cheese

*For a spicier flavor swap prosciutto for sopressata

*For a healthier option swap the ciabatta for whole grain bread

Directions:

  1. Cut the bread and put in the toaster until crisp and lightly golden brown.
  2. Spread the cheese on both sides of the bread with a knife, as if you are spreading a jam or peanut butter.
  3. Using the cheese as a sort of adhesive place the pickled beets on one side and the arugula on the other side. Press these items in so that they stick to the bread.
  4. Place the prosciutto on top of the arugula. It is heavier than the arugula so it will keep the ingredients in place.
  5. Lightly drizzle the balsamic glaze and the olive oil on top of the prosciutto and sprinkle pepper to taste.
  6. Quickly turn the top side of the sandwich with the beets on top of the prosciutto and press together with the palm of your hand until you feel the ingredients have melded and are in place. Slice in half and enjoy!

Pickled Beet & Lime Spritzer

Want to finish off your meal with a cocktail to unwind from the day? Here is my recipe for a quick and tasty savory cocktail using the juice from the pickled beets you have in the fridge. You’re welcome.

Prep Time : 2 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

Serving size: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 fluid ounces vodka
  • 2 fluid ounce pickled beet juice
  • juice from 1/2 of a lime or approximately 1/2 fluid ounce of lime juice
  • 2 fluid ounce of soda water
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 slice of lime for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put ice in a rocks glass and pour the vodka and pickled beet juice over the ice.
  2. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a lime into the glass and stir gently. Then add soda water.
  3. Garnish with slice of lime.
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