Zero waste beet pickles taste just as good, if not better, than store-bought pickled beets. They’re also ridiculously easy to make. All you need is some vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and you’re good to go. Pickling is also a great way to reduce food waste, especially when you have an over-abundance of food. Too many beets? Pickle them. Too many carrots? Pickles to the rescue. Too many cucumbers? You get the drill. The method I use to make these zero waste pickles is called refrigerator pickles, and they do not involve canning. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or equipment to can, so refrigerator pickles are the next best thing. Refrigerator pickles are an easy way to preserve vegetables but not the same as canning, which requires sterilizing the jars and much more processing. All that’s required of refrigerator pickles is that you keep them in the fridge: No heat or sterilization required. It’s much more do-able, especially when you’re a busy body like me.
Right before I made these pickled beets I had a whole bowl of chopped and boiled beets sitting in my fridge. I had used some for another recipe, but still had so many left over. So, what to do? Pickle the rest of course! I made sure to waste nothing – composting the beet skins and using any discarded water (from boiling the beets) to water my plants. If you have any kombucha brewing at home that’s turned into a very strong vinegar, you can also use that in place of traditional, store bought vinegar. For this recipe, I just used what I had (aka, store bought white vinegar). I encourage you to do the same before buying anything new – shopping your kitchen first is a great step towards reducing food waste, saving money and using up what you already have. Here’s how to make zero waste beet pickles – no canning, roasting or waste required.
Zero Waste Beet Pickles
- 4 to 5 beets (peeled – compost the skins)
- 2/3 cup of white vinegar (can sub for kombucha that’s turned into strong vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 3 tablespoons of organic sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Note on packaging: I bought the beets at my local farmers market in a reusable produce bag. You can learn more about my zero waste farmers market essentials here. Also, the sugar, salt and pepper were bought package free at my local bulk food store. If you’re new to bulk food shopping, I wrote a whole post about how to use bulk bins without creating waste. The white vinegar I used came in an easy to recycle glass bottle.
- Begin by peeling the beets and cutting off the ends – compost the peels and ends, but save the greens for later. You can use them in a stir fry or as a spinach substitute. Chop the beets up and add them to a medium pot. Cover them with water and bring them to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat. Let it simmer for 35 to 45 minutes (depends on the size of the beets). Check them with a fork to see if they’re pierced easily – if so, they’re done.
- Strain the beets, making sure to catch the excess water in another bowl. Give this water to your plants so it doesn’t go to waste (yes, it’ll be dyed pink, but that doesn’t mater – plants will still drink it up and it won’t harm them).
- Transfer the beets into a clean mason jar – I used two 16 oz mason jars. It depends on how many beets you’re making. If you have a lot, you’ll need a bigger jar (and you’ll probably have to double the amount of vinegar and sugar you use too). Keep the lid off, for now.
- In a seperate sauce pan, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper together. Heat and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved into the solution, then pour it over the beets. Seal with the lid and place it into the refrigerator. I suggest letting it marinate for a week before popping it open and enjoying a taste. You could probably get away with eating them just two days after making them, but I like to really let them pickle (they improve in flavor with age). Give it a go and see what you like best!
I made two jars: One (left) is with white vinegar, the other (right) is with apple cider vinegar. I ran out of white vinegar and didn’t have enough space to fit all the beets I made in one jar so I improvised. Can’t wait to see how the apple cider vinegar one turns out!
Would you give these zero waste beet pickles a try? What vegetables have you pickled?