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Barbara Pleasant: Beet Raisins

My newest book, Homegrown Pantry, will teach you how to grow beets and preserve them, too. Beet kvass, anyone?
Should you wish to make a quantity of beet raisins for a special event, I suggest freezing them on a cookie sheet and then storing them in freezer containers. Properly made beet raisins have a soft, fruity interior enclosed by a chewy exterior, and they really do taste like vegetable raisins.
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If you like, skip the melon baller and make beet raisins from cubed beets. They are not as showy, but taste great! When I give talks, I often bring some along for tasting!

Beet Raisins? 

Carrie Baird, a contender on Top Chef Colorado, wowed the judges with her beet raisins, the idea for which Gail Simmons said she would be “totally stealing.” I agree – It’s a fantabulous way to preserve beets!

On the trail of something new for the Homegrown Pantry, I made several tries with varying results, including the beet raisin recipe that Carrie Baird described to the Denver Post. It lacked detail, so I set to work creating a beet raisin recipe anyone could make with confidence. Twenty beets later, I have a recipe for beet raisins, and a deliciously decadent shortcut I’m calling beet cherries.

Beet Raisin Recipe, step by step

1. Scrub 4 medium beets clean and place in a pot with lid, with enough water almost to cover. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and cook at a slow boil for 40 minutes. Cool slightly, slice off tops and bottoms, and rub off skins under cool water. Wear gloves to avoid temporary staining of your hands.

2. In a medium saucepan, make a brine of one-half cup vinegar, one-half cup water, one cup sugar, and a pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer.

3. Use a small melon baller to cut rounds from the beets, setting aside the trimmed pieces. Don’t worry if some of the balls have ragged edges. Place the balls in the brine and simmer until they start to soften, about 40 minutes.

4. Drain the candied beet balls, recovering the hot brine in a heatproof container. Chop the trimmed pieces, mix them with the brine, and refrigerate to create a quick pickled beet relish.

5. Place the cooled beet balls on dehydrator trays, and dry at medium heat for 2 hours. They should still be slightly sticky to the touch, but delicious when sampled. At this moisture level, you could call them beet cherries.

6. Dehydrate for another hour or so, or until the beet raisins just begin to have a dry exterior. You can feel a few sticky spots, but hold them in your hand with no staining.

After about two hours in the dehydrator, the lightly candied beet balls still glisten with moisture, and have the sweetness and texture of cherries. They are delicious!
Can you make beet raisins with canned pickled beets?

Yes, you can! You will be able to taste more vinegar in the finished beet raisins, but they make a wonderful snack food. Simply cut your canned beets into small, half-inch pieces, and then pick up on Step 2 above, omitting the vinegar from the sweet brine. Dry until just leathery, and then store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Canned pickled beets, after they have been cut into uniform pieces and cooked in a sweet syrup.
Canned pickled beets, after they have been candied and dried into beet raisins.