Virginia Willis’ Ginger Pickled Beets

Southern Kitchen
Ginger Pickled Beets

Serves: Makes 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars

Hands On Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes


4 pounds beets (about 15)

8 cloves garlic, peeled

4 bay leaves, preferably fresh

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 1/2 cups white vinegar (see note)

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pickling salt

1 inch fresh ginger, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

2 pods star anise


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Scrub the beets and place in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Add the garlic, bay leaves and oil. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover tightly with foil and roast until a paring knife pierces the beet with little resistance, about 1 1/2 hours.

While the beets are cooking, prepare a boiling water canner and sterilize two quart jars or four pint jars (see note). Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the pickles. Do not boil the lids.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, ginger and star anise to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until flavorful and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

When the beets are tender, let them cool, covered. (This makes the beets easier to peel.) Once cool enough to handle, put on gloves and remove the stem end of the beet with a paring knife. Peel the beets, discarding the skin. Slice the beets into quarters.

Pack the beet quarters into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace in the top of the jar. Carefully pour the boiling pickling liquid over the beets in the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom between the top of the liquid and the top of the jar. Seal the lids. 

Using tongs, place the jars on the rack in the boiling water canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner. Return the water to a boil and boil gently for 30 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the jars to a towel to cool. If the seal works and fits properly, the metal lid will be slightly concave within 24 hours of processing.

Store the unopened jars at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once the jars are opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Variation: For refrigerator pickled beets, skip the boiling-water canning step and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

About the recipe

In this recipe I roast the beets instead of boiling them to intensify, not dilute, their flavor. More traditional flavorings for this pickle would include clove and cinnamon; these could be substituted for the star anise and ginger that I use here. The picking liquid is a simple combination of vinegar, water, salt and sugar. When pickling, you’ll need to make sure to use a vinegar that is labeled 5 percent, with a pH of about 2.6.

To pre-sterilize jars using a boiling water canner, place the cleaned jars right-side-up on a rack in a canner and fill the jars and canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for 10 minutes (at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation). Do not boil the lids. When you are ready to fill the jars, remove the jars one at a time with the canning tongs, carefully emptying the water from the jars them back into the canner. Let the jars air dry and sit undisturbed until you’re ready to fill them.