Quick Pickled Beets and Fennel – Madison Eats Food Tours
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Pickled beets

Quick Pickled Beets and Fennel

Quick pickled beets and fennel preserve our summer bounty

What is it about beets that puts them on many folks’ “most unwanted” list?

It can’t be their gorgeous color, or their delicious earthy greens. Eaten raw, their sweet crunch pairs perfectly with so many ingredients—creamy goat cheese, roasted nuts, smoked fish. Boiled or roasted, their smooth texture melds delightfully with other vegetables such as winter squash, fennel and sweet onions as well as seared steak. Pickled, beets’ sweet tang complements a bitter escarole, salty feta, boiled eggs, crisp carrots and roasted hazelnuts.

Making pickled beets was a tradition in our house. I grew up eating them (and I turned out just fine, I might add). My mother made them the way she had learned growing up in Pennsylvania, a delicious sweet-tangy brine made with equal parts sugar and vinegar, hints of bay leaf, cinnamon and clove. We always had a jar in the fridge, hardboiled eggs co-mingling with the beets. Purple eggs are fun!

This season, I decided to branch out and put my own spin on the family recipe. Apple cider vinegar adds a fruity element to the tang, while star anise complements pieces of raw fennel and fennel fronds. Hints of mustard seed, black peppercorns and clove round out the flavors. Brown sugar balances the earthy beets. Sometimes you don’t want to mess with tradition, but in this case, it turned out just fine.

Pickled Beets and Fennel (first published here)


1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 star anise
1 large piece cinnamon
2–3 whole cloves
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp whole black peppercorns

5–10 medium to large beets, cleaned, boiled until tender and skin removed, diced into 1-inch pieces (about 20 minutes in rapidly boiling water)
1 fennel bulb, sliced, and 1 fennel frond, cut

Place dry spices in bottom of quart mason jar. Place boiled, diced beets and chopped fennel bulb in glass jar. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan until it comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour vinegar solution over beets and fennel, making sure the vegetables are submerged. Top with fronds and cover tightly. Place in fridge, or process in boiling water bath. Let sit at least 24 hours before enjoying!