I’M SEEING LOTS OF RED THESE DAYS. Why? Well, first because I’m obsessed with the current season of HBO’s “True Blood.” And next, because I’m busy harvesting and preserving my home-grown beets. Beets, I can assure you, are a breeze to freeze.
Beets, or Beta vulgaris, come in lots of interesting shades. There’s white ‘Albino,’ white-striped-red ‘Chioggia,’ and creamy-yellow ‘Gold.’ I happen to favor ‘Detroit Dark Red,’ because it offers an earthy taste and aroma, along with blood-red coloring. You might say it’s a vampiric beet.
You can harvest beets about 55 days after planting from seed. However, I let mine grow for about 70 days, or until they reach baseball size, as pictured above.To preserve the roots, first trim off leaves (leaves can be blanched and frozen). Keep at least a half-inch of the leaf-stems attached, however, or the beautiful color will bleed-out during cooking.
Should your beets bleed and attract a vampire to your kitchen, you’d better hope his name is Bill Compton. Bill has tremendous respect for mortals. He’s content to drink “True Blood,” a synthetic version of the real stuff. The drink, which is available in various blood types (like O-Positive), permits vampires to live in harmony with humans.
Are you rolling your eyes right about now? I thought so.
Next, scrub the beets under running water. I scrub mine not with a veggie-brush, but with a wash-cloth.
Set the scrubbed beets in a big pot of water; bring the water to a boil over high heat. Then cover the pot and lower the heat. Simmer the beets until tender — about 20 minutes for small roots, and 45 minutes to an hour for large ones.
Plunge the cooked roots into a big bowl of ice water for a few minutes, or at least until they are cool enough to handle. The ice water will loosen the skin on your beets.
Now take plastic freezer bags — the one-quart size is useful for single servings — and label them as to content and date. Don’t wait until after you’ve filled the bags to mark them — unless you like to write on bumpy surfaces.
Fill the bags with beets.
To avoid freezer-burn, expel air from each bag. An electronic vacuum-sealing device is useful here. But if you lack such a gadget, just do what I do, and insert a drinking straw at one end of the bag. Seal the bag all the way up to the straw. Then suck on the straw with all your might, remove the straw, and quickly seal the tiny opening.
A better plan is to rinse off the little beet-bits. Then set the board slanted downward in your kitchen sink. Slowly pour over the board one cup of hot water combined with a splash (2 tablespoons) of liquid bleach, and voila! your board will show no trace of red.
Frozen beets are great to have on hand. When needed as a side dish, just boil them briefly, and then season them to taste. Remember, they’re already cooked!
Here’s a copy-and-paste version of the above freezing-procedure, which contains no talk of vampires whatsoever:
How I Freeze Beets
Kevin Lee Jacobs, A Garden for the House
1. Trim all but 1/2-inch of leaf-stems from beets; scrub beets clean under running water.
2. Set beets in a big pot, then add enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover the pot, and let the beets simmer until tender — about 20 minutes for small roots, and 45 minutes to an hour for large roots. Beets are sufficiently cooked when they can be pierced with a fork.
3. Plunge the beets in a big bowl of ice water for about 10 minutes, or until they are cool enough to handle.
4. Slice off ends of beets. Then peel them, by simply rubbing your hands against each beet.
5. According to preference, either slice or dice the beets. Do not leave them whole. Whole beets, in my experience, do not freeze well.
6. Label zip-lock-type freezer bags as to content and date. Then fill the bags with beets. I like to fill quart-size bags as single servings.
7. To avoid freezer-burn, expel air from bags with a vacuum sealer. Or, insert a straw at the end of a bag; seal up to the straw. Suck the air out, remove the straw, and then seal the tiny opening.
8. Freeze for up to one year.
In the comments field below, I hope you’ll tell me whether or not you planted beets this year. And if you don’t like beets, perhaps you can tell me which vamp you favor most on the current season of “True Blood.” Is it kind Bill? Hot but evil Eric? Sweet Jessica? Or Tara, who only recently acquired a set of fangs?
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