I'll bet you thought I was going to say something about beads... That's usually the case, but since we moved into our new house this year and planted a pretty good-sized garden, we've been inundated with veggies.
Specifically, zucchini the size of baseball bats, piles of green beans, a few peas (they didn't do very well), a few green peppers, loads of tomatoes, and gobs of cucumbers. And beets.
Because everything was planted at the same time, it all ripened at the same time, and I've ventured into the world of canning -- the thought being that it would be better to start off canning stuff rather than investing a few hundred dollars in a freezer (that may come next year, though).
Just look at all these zucchini and cucumbers!
My only experience in canning foods was many many years ago, and I was a mere spectator. Oh, I helped string and break beans, but I wasn't allowed near the canning apparatus (that was for the experts).
I did a little reading in some of the recipe books I have, and I even found a recipe on Pinterest for refrigerator pickles -- they're quite good, but because of the way they're made they only last for a couple of weeks.
When I realized the beets were ready to pull, I enlisted the help of a neighbor who does a LOT of canning. We'd been to our neighbors' house and sampled their pickled beets, and they were delicious. She offered up her help and her kitchen, and we drove up there with our freshly-pulled-up beets (with all but about 3" of the tops cut off and the roots intact to keep them from "bleeding out"), giant pots, vinegar, sugar, spices, and jars.
The process was relatively easy. Even for beginners. Because the beets are pickled, there's no need for a pressure cooker. It's just a few steps:
1. Clean the beets thoroughly. Don't brush or scrub them so the skin doesn't get damaged. Make sure to leave 2" to 3" of the tops and the entire root intact.
2. Add beets to boiling water and boil for about 35 minutes. They're ready when the skin starts to "slip", the sign that they can be peeled easily.
3. Take beets out of boiling water and put into a cold water bath. Cut off the tops and the roots, and peel them. The peels should slide right off (although you might have to coax them with a knife). Cut them into 1" or so chunks or into slices (we opted for chunks).
4. In a big pot, add 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts white sugar, 1 part water, and pickling spice. For our recipe we used 3 cups of vinegar, 1-1/2 cups of white sugar, and half a bottle of McCormick's pickling spice. The pickling spice was poured into a coffee filter and tied up, since we didn't want to wind up with spice floating around in the liquid. We just kind of guessed at how much liquid to make, just trying to make sure we had enough to fill all the jars so the beets were immersed in liquid.
5. Bring all of that to a boil, then add the cut up beets. Bring back to a boil, and boil for five minutes. (Here they are, cooking away -- isn't that a great color?)
While all of that is going on, the jars and lids are being prepared. The jars are already clean, so they're sitting in a pan of boiling water, tops down, to keep them hot and keep the tops of them sterile.
6. Take a jar from the pan, and using a canning funnel, fill it to about 1/2" from the brim with beets. Add liquid to about 1/4" from the brim, then wipe the edge of the jar to make sure it's clean. Add the lid and the ring, then set the jar aside to cool (we set them on a towel, since we wanted them to cool evenly).
A little while later, you should hear the lids start to pop as they seal (if some don't seal, put them in the fridge and eat them within a couple of weeks -- all of ours sealed successfully).
Bada bing - bada boom -- pickled beets! THEY'RE YUMMY! (And they're good for you too, but mostly they're yummy.)
After the pickled beet canning, I moved the operation back home and canned some bread and butter pickles and some green beans. The giant zucchini were peeled, seeded, and grated so they could be stored in Ziploc bags for future zucchini bread.
And soon the garden will have more veggies for us... :-)