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This year, my beets have really done well. So much so that I needed to take steps to begin preserving them with a “Refrigerator Pickle Method.” Photo by Josh Nightingale
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Jano’s Garden: It’s time to ‘put food by’

I am developing a fondness for root vegetables. Typically when I plant them, they either don’t mature or mature poorly. Or in the case of carrots, they begin to develop but when picked they are either oddly shaped or exceedingly short!

This year, my beets have taken off, so I researched how to pickle them. In an effort to streamline the process, I have come upon the “Refrigerator Pickle Method,” which is much different and less time-consuming than the traditional water-bath method.

Most of these recipes can be found in the ‘Ball Jar Blue Book’ published in 1900 by the Ball Mason Company.

“The iconic glass jar with lid is one of the most recognizable objects produced in the 19th Century. At that time, the potential of foodborne illness was a significant threat to the consumer,” according to the Ball Jar Bluer Book.

This amazing cookbook, with over 350 food preservation recipes is still available online today.

When I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s, my Dutch grandmother canned and preserved almost everything that she grew in the backyard of her tiny Milwaukee bungalow.

The shelves of her pantry were lined with rows of Ball jars filled with pickled beets and vegetables, applesauce and apple butter. She became a widow at 55 years old, and the food in her pantry carried her through the winter.

As an adult, I look back and realize how useful and necessary the canning process was to her frugal existence. While working in the Senior Garden at the Pine Street Community Garden, many of my fellow gardeners have asked me, “What can I do with all these vegetables?”

I hope to encourage others to research not only the ‘Ball Jar Blue Book,’ or many of the Master Gardener websites, such as or Cornell University Cooperative Extenion‘s website for free recipes and canning information on their Food Preservation Program.

Since pickling in a refrigerator requires less time and effort than the traditional water bath canning method, it fits into most of our busy schedules in a way that the traditional method does not.

The following recipe can be adapted to all root vegetables including carrots, radishes or turnips. It also works well with broccoli and cauliflower, or a combination of two or three vegetables.

As long as vegetables are processed with boiling water, and placed in the correct jars, this product will last for over two months in the refrigerator. Remember to only use glass Mason or Ball jars, not re-used jars that might have nicks or poorly fitting lids. This recipe fits nicely into a one-liter glass jar, be certain jar and lid are washed before use.


(Adapted from


4 or 5 medium cooked beets (Trim green tops, save for later. Clean beets, boil in water until soft. Remove skins and cut into slices).

1 c. cider vinegar

1 c. water

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. dry ground mustard

5 whole black peppercorns

½ tsp. cinnamon

1. Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for a few minutes, leave on stove while adding beets to jar.

2. Add peppercorns and beets to jar. Pour hot liquid over beets, being certain they are fully covered.

3. Set aside for several hours.

4. Transfer to refrigerator. Beets will last in the refrigerator for up to two months.

I hope you all have a fruitful planting season, and enjoy your own “Putting Food By,” sessions at your homes. Please contact me for more recipes, or to share your own canning and preservation experiences. The Carlsbad Senior Center will also be offering gardening classes this summer; contact them at

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and works on community gardens in North County. She can be reached at [email protected].