“Corned” Beets with Onions

Recipe by Tami Ganeles Weiser; photo contributed by Ame Gilbert Yield:  8 half-cup servings (1 quart total)
Prep Time:  30 minutes Cook Time:  45 minutes

“Corned” Beets with Onions

“Corning” is a culinary preservation technique that uses salt and seasoning to “pickle” beef. Borrowing the technique, this quick refrigerator pickle is a reduced-sodium version of a classic comfort food, a Russian Jewish–style beet treat. Note that you’ll need a quart-sized container or several smaller jars, preferably glass, with tight-fitting lids, to make these pickled beets, and that you will need to marinate them for three days.

A perky, homey dish like this would traditionally be garnished with sour cream, but it is also delicious with crumbled low-fat farmer’s cheese, a mild goat cheese, or cubed silken tofu. Serve it on a sturdy rye cracker, like Finn Crisp or a Wasa bread. Or for a very different crostata-style appetizer, try some on toasted seeded rye bread with a schmear of cream cheese underneath.



2 pounds red beets, scrubbed but not peeled

½ small sweet onion, cut into very thin slices (approximately ½ cup)


1 cup white vinegar

1½ cups water

½ cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon celery seeds

10 allspice berries

8 juniper berries

4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed

4 bay leaves

3 cardamom pods, white or green, gently smashed

2 cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt



  1. Put the beets into a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil until the beets are tender, 45 minutes or longer depending on the size of the beets. Drain, allow to cool, and then trim the ends of the beets and peel them. Slice into ¼-inch slices (To hasten cooling, you can put the unpeeled beets into a bowl of ice water.)
  2. While the beets are cooking and cooling, assemble the pickling spices and place and the other brine ingredients into a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place a quarter of the onions in a quart-sized container or several smaller containers (preferably glass) that have tight-fitting lids, add a quarter of the beets, and repeat, alternating layers of onions and beets, until the jar is full and packed. Pour the brine, spices and all, over the beets, making sure the beets and onions are covered completely. If they are not, add enough water to cover. Screw the lid onto the jar and refrigerate for three days, giving the jar a little shake once a day.

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