When my mother was pregnant with me, she craved beets. To satisfy this urge, she drank vast quantities of Manischewitz borscht, often cold and straight from the bottle. It surely would have made her Russian great-grandmother proud.
I like to credit this early exposure for my lifelong love of beets. I like them boiled, roasted, pureed into soup, tumbled into salad or just slicked with a bit of toasted sesame oil and lemon juice. I'm also a huge believer in the pickled beet.
During college, I was perfectly content with those commercially canned, crinkle-cut pickled beets that they served on the salad bar. Once I had a kitchen of my own, I started to make quick pickled beets and suddenly, the mass produced variety just weren't as good (another perfectly acceptable grocery store item ruined by the homemade version).
These days, there are nearly always a few jars of homemade pickled beets on my pantry shelves. They brighten dinner salads, help make a meal out of roasted potatoes and leftover chicken and are great hostess gifts for the beet lovers in my circle of friends.
I know that there are many who object to beets strictly because they make a mess in the kitchen. And it's true, red beets do bleed all over the place when peeled and sliced. But when you opt for golden beets, you get all the sweet, earthy flavor of beets but without the risk of staining your countertops and cutting boards.
Before You Pickle
Boil your beets. I've found this the easiest way to prep beets for pickling. Put them in a roomy saucepan and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil and simmer them until they are fork tender (anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of your beets).
Peel your beets. When they are done cooking, run cold water over the beets. When they are cool to handle, pick them up and rub the skins off. They should slide away easily with just a small amount of pressure.
Chop your beets. The style of cut is entirely up to you. I like them quartered and sliced, but others enjoy their pickled beets cut into wedges or cubes. As long as the pieces are small enough for the brine to easily penetrate, the shape and style is cook's choice.