It turns out that I have about three kilograms of beetroot of which to dispose in the first flush of spring, as a result of the urge to get the next season's plantings underway rather than any attempt at timing such things. As much as I love this ruby root vegetable, there is only so much borscht
that one man can consume. So rather than give them away to friends like some smug feudal landlord, the decision was made to pickle.
(Step 1. Boil the beetroot, let cool, and peel off the skins)
Home pickling and preserving in Australia is synonymous with a single brand - Fowlers Vacola - whom have been producing kits and their patented preserving jars since 1913. As a result of the antique Australian cooking pamphlet fetish that I'm cultivating, I've got three copies of the offical Fowlers Vacola preserving guide: from 1930, 1943 and 2009. The change between them is marked. 1930 has a strong focus on preserving meats with testimonials to support the preservation of every cut of every animal. A few meat products that no longer are part of the popular Australian vernacular with one successful preserver mentions pickling "haslet", a pork entrail-rich meatloaf originally from Lincolnshire. I had to reach for the dictionary. By 1943, the meats are still there as are debates over how much gelatin to use - although with more significant warnings on their careful preservation (pickling rabbit was out due to the as yet unknown effects of the introduced disease myxomatosis).
(Step 2. Cut the beetroot into even slices. I'm using a mandolin out of laziness and the need to justify its continued existence)
By 2009, both meats and most vegetables had disappeared from the Fowlers Vacola guide. Pickling and preserving in Australia is no longer a survival mechanism but a luxury for most. A bad batch of preserves is not going to risk many families going hungry. Growing more vegetables than you can immediately eat would put you amongst the minority of gardeners and the absolute ubiquity of refrigerators means that the alternate method of preserving - freezing - is easier.
(Step 3. The 1943 edition of the Fowlers Vacola cookbook suggests that 2 pints of malt vinegar mixed with half a "teacup" of sugar is needed for the betroot pickling mix. Pour into jars with the beetroot.)
(Step 4. Into the preserver to heat for 70 minutes)
(Step 5. Out comes pickled beetroot (and some leftover strawberries) that will last for an almost indefinite period of time)