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Well, I made it to Indiana, and I’ll be here for a week or so, working on my book at the Kinsey Institute, before heading to a conference in Ohio and a visit with family.  Before I left, I made a great saag paneer dish with the rest of my collards and cilantro, which were bolting, and beet greens from the lovely beets we’ve been getting in the market.  Beets are wonderful because you can use all their parts — greens, stems, roots.

I mentioned the beet stem relish I made a few weeks ago (recipe below), but I wanted to discuss a nice bonus that comes from the pickling process: pickled mustard seeds.

Pickled mustard seeds are wonderful, and so easy.  I like to add them to any salad or salad dressing where I’d normally use sharp whole-grain mustard.  They add a delicious crunch. Because they’re preserved in vinegar, salt, and sugar, and are meant to be cold, fresh, and lively, they keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  As they sit, they get stronger.  These are not meant for processing.  The flavor is sweet and sour.  Adjust sugar per your fancy.

Yellow mustard seeds (as opposed to the brown or black ones, which can be bitter in this preparation) are best.  They can be most cheaply purchased in bulk at a health food store or Indian market.

The brilliant salmon color of the ones above are due, of course, to the dark red beet stems. You could slip a sliced beet in your pickle to mimic the color if you like.

I’m including two recipes, one for the beet stem relish and one for plain pickled mustard seeds.  Enjoy!

Pickled Beet Stem Relish

Yield: 2 pints.

  • 3 cups finely chopped young beet stems
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion or red onion
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel or dill seed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

Trim the leaves off the beet stems.  Rub the stems under running water to remove all traces of mud.  Finely chop the stems — this is important, as they will be tough and stringy in larger pieces or batons.  Chop the onions and carrots in similar pieces.

Wash and sterilize two pint jars (I pour boiling water into the newly washed jars, or you can take jars immediately out of the dishwasher.)  Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.

Scoop out spices from the brine and add to warm jars.  Add raw vegetables to jars, pressing down gently so they are packed generously but not too tightly.  Pour boiling brine in jars up to about an inch from the top.  Cover with plastic lids or metal lids protected by a layer of plastic wrap (so the lids won’t corrode).  Let sit on counter until cool, then refrigerate for at least a few hours before eating.  Pickles will keep with excellent quality for about a week.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

Yield: 1/2 pint.

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar, or any homemade vinegar (no need to worry about acid levels here, since it’s a refrigerator pickle, not a processed one). Consider berry or cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 2/3 cup yellow mustard seed
  • one slice of raw red beet for color (optional)

Wash and sterilize one pint jar (I pour boiling water into the newly washed jars, or you can take jars immediately out of the dishwasher.)  Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.  Remove beet slice.  Let cool and store overnight in refrigerator.  Keeps in refrigerator for weeks.

Quick Beet Raita

Raita is a cooling Indian condiment made from yogurt and spices and the occasional vegetable like cucumbers, carrots, or, as I discovered, beets!  I used about a 1/4 cup of beet stem pickle for 2 cups of plain, full fat Greek yogurt, then folded in a few shakes of cumin, coriander, and white pepper.  Salt to taste, then add a 1/2 cup of sliced or chopped roasted beets and a handful of chopped cilantro.

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