The topic of beets!

This past week turned out to be unexpectedly busy as my brother-in-law called me Monday morning and said he needed help. Well, it turns out my sister had an episode of fainting, something that hadn’t happened in several years. He had also called EMS and they arrived, and as they were talking to her, she had another episode and blacked out again. Each time, this just lasts for a few seconds, so she was transported to the hospital, and I loaded her husband up and we were just a few minutes behind the ambulance. While they were doing the EKG at the hospital, an episode happened during the EKG, and they found the reason for her fainting. Her heart was not beating fast enough and when it slowed down to a certain point, she would faint. She was transported to San Antonio Tuesday evening and on Wednesday they placed a pacemaker into her. We are all so relieved to know the cause of this and happy that something as simple as a pacemaker would fix it! She gets to come back home today (Thursday), and has to take it easy for a few days and then she gets her life back.
Big sister’s contribution to her homecoming is going to be a nice hot meal, as she couldn’t eat during the day Monday and finally got something to eat and finished the day with a chicken salad sandwich. Of course, Tuesday was more of the same thing, because they didn’t have a clue as to when the surgery would be, so, nothing by mouth, and when she got to the hospital in San Antonio, she was finally given a sandwich for supper! (I think she said chicken salad.) And, I have no clue what she got to eat Wednesday evening, but I definitely am not making anything with chicken in it for her. It’s going to be meat loaf, by a recipe that is a favorite of my family. The meat loaf turned out great and they enjoyed it very much.
Stuffed Meat Loaf
(In this recipe, it works better to make the stuffing and allow it to be cooling while you are mixing the ingredients for the meat loaf)
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup margarine
Cook above ingredients together for 10 minutes, and then add
½ cup hot water and
2½ cups dry breadcrumbs
Mix together and allow to cool while you make the meat loaf.
*I cheated and used a box of Stove Top with bread rather than cornbread and it was perfect!
Meat Loaf
2 pounds ground meat
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped celery
1 egg
¼ cup milk
½ cup tomato sauce
¾ cup hot water
Combine meat, salt, pepper, onion, celery, egg and milk and mix well. Stir together the tomato sauce and hot water, set aside. Pat out the meat mixture onto a piece of foil or waxed paper into a 10×12 rectangle and spread stuffing mixture over meat. Roll up starting with long side. Place into 9×13-inch baking dish pour tomato sauce/water mixture over meat loaf. Bake at 350ºF for about 1 hour basting several times with pan drippings.
Do you like beets? That’s a pretty weird question, isn’t it? Most of us never think of whether we like beets or not, right? We just look at them in their cans on the shelf and think, “they’re sure a pretty color, but what would I do with them?” Or, if we see them on a salad bar, we just ignore them because we have never tried them and probably don’t want too! Since I was raised during the WWII years, with grandparents who had gardens and a Dad who worked in a grocery store, I learned to eat beets. They do taste good if they are fixed correctly, even if they come out of a can. Just straight from the can, they don’t taste very good and when you look at them in the produce aisle at the grocery store or a farmers market, you thought is “how on earth would you cook something like that?” So, today, to clear up a little of the mystery about beets, I will tell you a little bit about them.
There are many varieties of beets that include the leafy varieties called chard and spinach beet, the beetroot or garden beet and also the sugar beet that is used to make table sugar. All of the cultivated varieties are in the subspecies Beta vulgaris subp. vulgaris, while Beta vulgaris subp. martima, the common name for the sea beet, is the wild ancestor of these.
The history of the been goes back to the second millennium BC. It was probably domesticated along the Mediterranean, and later spread to Babylonia by the 8th century BC and from there as far toward the east as China by 850 AD. Evidence shows that the leafy varieties were most widely cultivated for much of its history.
Beets became very important commercially in the 19th century in Europe, after the development of the sugar beet in Germany, when it was discovered that sucrose could be extracted from them. This discovery provided an alternative to the tropical sugar cane and to this day, beets remain a widely cultivated commercial crop for producing table sugar.
To cook beets at home after purchasing them from the store or from a farmers market, you scrub them well, place them in a pot, cover them with water and cook them until they are done. The peels will slip off just as the peels from peaches and tomatoes come off when they are dipped into boiling water. After they are cooked, the can be eaten as a hot dish with butter, they can be pickled and chilled and eaten cold as a condiment, (and this is the most common way they are eaten in our areas), or they can be shredded raw and eaten as a salad. The pickled beets are a traditional food of the American South and believe it or nor, according to the information I have, in Australia and New Zealand, it is common for sliced, pickled beets to be served on a hamburger. A traditional dish of the Pennsylvania Dutch is to use the left over pickling liquid and place hard cooked eggs in it and store in the fridge until the eggs turn a deep pink/red color.
In checking through cook books, I found recipes using beets in cakes and cookies, which seems a really sneaky way to get you family to eat a dish they might tell you they don’t like. As for myself, I have eaten them prepared with a thickened sauce, (Harvard beets), as well as just plain with butter, salt and pepper, but my favorite, if I am going to eat beets is pickled.
When I lived in Devine, especially when the children were small, my Grandma and Aunt from LaCoste and I would can beets. We cooked the beets, peeled them and cut them into chunks or slices, made up a hot mixture of vinegar, sugar and the liquid from cooking the beets and placed them in quart jars, sealed them shut and I truly don’t remember if we processed them or not, as too many years have gone by. Also, in later years, a friend, who had a big garden, would pick the leaves off of the plants when they were small and cook them just as you would cook spinach. They were good served this way. If you have purchased them fresh, cook them as directed above, remove the peels and then either cut the cooked beets into chunks or slices and use the following recipe to make your pickled beets. With canned beets, you use the liquid from the can, with fresh ones, there is danger of sand lurking in the cooking water, and so I just use equal parts of water, sugar and vinegar, along with a pinch of salt. (These beets would go well with the Stuffed Meat Loaf!).
Pickled Beets
2 or 3 cans sliced beets (can use the cut pieces or quarters if desired)
Sugar, vinegar, liquid
Open the cans and drain the liquid from the beets and set aside. Place the beets in a bowl and set aside. Measure out 1 cup sugar, 1 cup of the beet liquid and ¾ to 1 cup vinegar, place in a pot and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and then pour over the beets in the bowl. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is how my grandma made her pickled beets. Many cooks do not heat the mixture, they just stir until the sugar is dissolved and pour it over the beets, and still others add pickling spices to the mixture; it truly is a matter of personal preference.
Now, I know I mentioned a cake made with beets, but, I found recipes for sauerkraut cake, poppy seed cake, carrot cake, potato cake, wacky cake, pork cake, watermelon cake and all sorts of other cakes using vegetables and/or fruits but could not find the one using beets. It was called, of all things, “Beetnick Cake”, but without spending several hours going through cookbooks, I can’t find it this morning!