It doesn't get much better than bunches of just picked beetroot - the freshness evident in their firm stems and crisp leaves.
When it comes to leaves and stems, especially when they are this fresh, don't be throwing them away. Treat them as you would chard, the stems especially will both add colour and a mild beetroot flavour to your dishes.
For these beets I've decided to pickle them. Commercial pickled beetroots are something that will send me running as fast as possible to get away from them, but pickling these little cuties in a slightly sweet mix produces something I'd happily eat straight out of the jar!
2 bunches baby beetroot
¾ cup caster sugar
¾ cup water
½ cup sherry vinegar
If you don't have baby beets, you can substitute regular sized beetroot, the cooking time naturally will have to be extended.
First off, chop the stems from the beets, leaving a good inch or so attached. Reserve the stems and leaves for other recipes.
It's important now that you carefully wash the beetroot, removing any dirt that has collected around the stem - you can let them soak them for a few minutes in cold water to help dislodge any residual soil.
In a large pot over a medium heat, pour in the water and sugar and stir well until dissolved. Increase the heat slightly and allow the mixture to simmer untouched for 5 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and add in the cleaned and drained beetroots, pour in the sherry vinegar and top with enough cold water to cover the beets by a good inch or two. Stir carefully to amalgamate the mixture and return the pot to a low heat.
Place the lid on your pot and allow to gently simmer until the beets have just cooked through. Remove form the heat and let them sit in the syrup until cold.
When cold, retrieve the cooked beets from the syrup - strain the syrup through a fine sieve and pour into a clean pot. Put the syrup back on the stove over a medium heat and bring to just under boiling point - let this simmer to reduce and thicken a little.
While the syrup is simmering, it's time to peel the beetroot. It's best to wear glove and just gently rub your thumbs across the beet, if cooked enough, the skin should just peel away. Run your thumb around the rough edge where root and stem join, this rough section should also just peel away. If you like, you can remove the stem at this stage - it will basically just pull away with a little pressure, but for presentation and also textural reasons I like to keep the stem attached.
Arrange these cleaned beets into a glass preserving jar and pour over with the reduced syrup. Seal and when cool, store in the fridge.