I love beets (Beta vulgaris). They are easy to grow, they are hardy, they are delicious. They yield lovely greens from the early thinnings, then baby beets which also have the lovely greens, then big beets from the remainder (still with good greens in winter). The offcut leaves go to the chooks, where I believe they give me more orange yolks and I love orange yolks, even if it just a psychological reminder that my eggs are the real deal. I love them roasted, particularly when cooled and served with pithless orange segments in a salad with goats cheese; and I love beetroot chutney and relish. You can leave them be and harvest them as you need, as long as you don’t let them warm up into flowering; but sometimes you want to harvest an entire row so that you can plant the next thing. That’s when it is relish time. Last weekend, because it was time to open up space from winter crops for the new spring plantings, was just such a relish time. This one concentrated on allspice (Pimenta dioica) for flavour, because it doesn’t really taste like ‘all spices’ at all, but rather a few that all suit relish really rather well, like clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- 3 Tbsp Olive oil
- 4 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp ground pimento / all spice (don’t over-spice; start modestly and you can add some to taste during the long cook, but you can never get it out if you use too much at the start)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 – 2 cups brown sugar (honey substitution is a future plan)
- 6 beetroots (~1kg) (grated) (skin on if it is in good nick, but shave off any rough or warty bits)
- 1 or 2 onions, depending on size, finely sliced (red, brown or white, in order of preference)
- 4 cloves garlic (optional, it might not even make it better; but I just can’t say no to the stuff)
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 5 cups vinegar (balsamic, cider and/or red wine; weigh your beets because vinegar needs to be at least 1/3 the weight of beetroot to preserve well)
- Top with orange juice, water or cider vinegar, depending on preference, if it gets short on moisture during the cook.
Add everything in the order above, stirring as you go; slow cook for an hour or two; put in sterilised jars and then sterilise again in a hot water bath. Have some patience, then serve on bread with cheese and salad.