In my opinion, beets are vastly underappreciated. Perhaps that is because they tend to be ridiculously expensive in the supermarket, no doubt because they usually are trucked in from Texas. In the summer you can get nice beets for a reasonable price at your local farmers’ market, as I do. But my big find this year was a 10-pound bag of beets from Québec on sale for $1.99 at our local MaineSource market.
Ok, so here I am with a 10-pound bag of beets. Obviously that is a lot of beets even for someone such as me who loves beets—all that “wonderful medieval vulgarity” as Clarissa Dickson Wright of the BBC’s Two Fat Ladies fame put it so succinctly. And keeping that large a bag in our 22 cubic foot refrigerator did not seem a viable option. Then I thought, well, they are roots so maybe I can just keep them in the pantry in the basement like potatoes. But, unfortunately, our basement is a bit too warm and the beets started sprouting stems. So, time for plan B: freezing. One note of caution: if you buy vegetables in large, chef-grade bags like I did be aware that you can expect somewhat more waste than you would find among the selected ones you buy in your supermarket. Usually the price difference makes this more than worthwhile and your composter will appreciate the bad ones.
There are two ways to cook beets: roasting and boiling. In theory you can do either with the peels on and the peels will come off easily when the beets are cooked. Well, don’t believe it. Roasted beets are very difficult to peel. So stick to boiling. If you have a pressure cooker by all means use it but you may have to do a couple of batches if you have a 4-quart model.
Wash the beets then trim the root and stem. Put them in the pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook at 15 psi for 12 to 18 minutes depending on the size of the beets. Cool and open the pressure cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If not using a pressure cooker increase the cooking time to about 40 minutes or until the beets can be pierced easily with a small knife.) Drain the beets and put into a large pot of cold water. After about a minute rub the peels off with your fingers and trim off any bad spots. Set aside to dry a bit.
Cut the beets in halves or quarters depending on their size and spread them on a large sheet pan. Set in the freezer until hard, about an hour. Store in a plastic freezer bag.
Beets are wonderful tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper then roasted in a hot oven. You can either peel the raw beets, which will color your hands a nice shade of red, or you can boil them first which will reduce the color transfer and speed up the roasting. In the latter case, wash and trim the beets then boil them for about 20 minutes. Take one out, plunge it into cold water for a minute then try to rub off the skin with your fingers. If it comes off easily, the beets are done; if not give them a few more minutes of boiling. Drain the beets and put them into cold water a couple of minutes then remove the skins. Cut them into halves or quarters, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a roasting pan and put into a 375° oven for about 30 minutes if boiled first or 45 minutes if not. Turn occasionally to prevent sticking to the pan. Serve with roast meats.