Fermenting beets is easy and the result is both tasty and healthy. It’s another great way to preserve your harvest and enjoy it longer. In this tutorial, I’ll show you just how easy it is to ferment beets.
I don’t have a root cellar, yet. If you’ve been clicking around on this blog, you probably noticed that I love canning my garden harvest. The thing is… What I love most is to consume everything that comes out of the garden fresh.
Of course, it’s not possible and this is why I can some of it (here is how to can beets), but if there is a way for me to preserve a vegetable without cooking it or processing it in heat, I really do prefer that.
Fermenting is just that way. Throw fresh vegetables in a jar with some seasonings, add the brine, close the jar and let it be. Not only is it so simple, but the result is also tasty, healthy, and fresh. It’s kinda like eating the vegetables fresh from the garden, just with a little tasty twist.
Yes, it will be better to store the fermented beets in the fridge or in a root cellar but I found that since the beet is so hard, it lasts for a few months at room temperature just fine (more on this later). This saves me a good amount of room in the fridge which is always a good thing.
What is Fermentation…
Fermentation is the process of using microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, to convert carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids under anaerobic conditions. There are a couple types of fermentation…
Alcoholic fermentation is when we use yeast to break down sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol. This is the process we use to make beer, wine, and bread.
Lacto fermentation is the process of using bacteria, named Lactobacillus, to convert sugars into lactic acid. This bacteria (some form of it) is actually present in our digestive system naturally and is also present on the surface of plants.
Lactic acid is a preservative that helps us preserve foods by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Lacto fermentation, which is the process we are going to use to preserve our beets, also increases the vitamin and enzyme level of the vegetables we ferment.
Adding fermented foods to our diet can help us introduce additional probiotics, or in other words, beneficial bacteria to our digestive system in a natural way. Beneficial bacteria help us digest food and help us support a healthy metabolism.
So we take our beets, let them sit in a solution and steep for a few days, the sugars in the vegetable break down and start promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Lactic acid is formed and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria which makes it possible for us to preserve what’s in the jar (in cold storage). We get to add beneficial bacteria to our gut and are able to keep the food for a longer period!
That’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at it!
What Kind of Beets Can I Ferment?
You can ferment any kind of beets. There are many varieties of beets; some are round and some are longer and narrower. Some are pink, some are yellow, and some are deep purple/red… They are all great and suitable for fermenting. Just make sure to choose fresh, hard beets.
Kitchen Tools We Are Going to Need…
Before we start with the tutorial, let’s gather our kitchen tools…
Cutting board – I always work on a wooden one.
A peeler – to remove the skin from the beets.
A knife – to cut the beets.
A jar with a lid– you can use whatever size you want. I used a 24 oz jar here but it’s just because I had it laying around. I usually use quart or pint jars.
Measuring spoons – to measure the salt.
2 cup measuring cup – to measure the water.
Fermentation weight – I still don’t have fermentation weights! I tell myself at the beginning of every season that I’m going to buy weights and somehow the season ends and I still haven’t bought them. I’ve used so many last-minute tricks (we’ll talk about them later), but believe me when I say that your life is going to be much easier if you use fermentation weights (**Update – I now have fermentation weights and I can’t believe that it took me soooo long to get them!).
How to Ferment Beets…
Step 1: Preparing the Beets for Fermentation…
We usually start with freshly picked beets from the garden. If you buy beets at the store, make sure that they are firm and fresh…
Next, cut off the greens (and use them to make veggie patties or add them to meatballs or salads) and wash the beets.
Cut off the tops and the roots (these go to the chickens)…
And then use the vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the beets…
Now slice or cut your beets however you want. It doesn’t really matter how you do this. You can slice them thin or a little thicker, however, you prefer eating them. Just know that if you slice them real thin, they’ll probably soften much more quickly.
Step 2: Packing the Jar With Beets…
Once the beets are ready, pack the jar into a clean jar. Try to fit as much as you can in there but make sure to leave about an inch of headspace.
Then, add the seasonings. There are many ways you can go here and many different combinations to choose from.
You can add mustard seeds, peppercorns, red chili flakes, dill, rosemary, pickling mix, thyme… Really there are so many options. You are going to have to try and see what you like best.
I kept it super simple this time with just a teaspoon or so of mustard seeds.
Step 3: Adding Brine…
Once the beets and seasonings are in the jar, it’s time to mix the brine. I like a very salty brine so I mix one tablespoon of salt per one cup of water. I stir this until the salt dissolves and then add to the jar.
A couple of notes here… First, use sea salt, kosher salt, or pickling salt, or in other words, use non-iodized salt.
Second, if you like the taste of vinegar, feel free to add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water as well. I show how to do that in my preserving peppers in vinegar and salt post.
Third, you can make a brine that is a little less salty but don’t do less than a teaspoon of salt per one cup of water.
Fill the jar almost all the way with the brine, leaving some room for the fermentation weight.
Step 4: Fermenting Beets…
Now all you have left to do is place the fermentation weight and close the jar. When I made this batch, I still didn’t have my glass fermentation weights so I used an apple…
You can see in this batch that it didn’t work so well… I ended up with a disgusting mess of tiny white creatures…
It can work though, if you make sure to push the apple all the way under the brine. However, I’ll say it again… Just get yourself a pack of fermentation weights.
After you place the weight, close the jar, set it on a plate, and place it on the kitchen counter to ferment. Fermentation time will change according to the size of the jar. For this jar, it took about a week to ferment.
After a couple of days, you’ll start to see bubbles inside the jar, make sure to twist the lid every day as if you are going to open the jar but don’t completely open it, then after a few seconds, twist the lid back again. This will allow some of the gas that is created in the fermentation process to escape the jar. We call this to “burp” the jar (you can also use fermentation lids that let the gas out without you needing to open the jar).
You’ll notice that the brine becomes foggy, that’s just fine. When it clears again, it means that the beets are fermented and it’s time to store the jar.
Also, know that the beets are going to dye the brine purple. That’s completely normal!
How to Store and Use Fermented Beets…
The best way to store your fermented beets is in cold storage. Somewhere with a 30-40 degrees temperature. This can be the fridge or the root cellar.
However, if your beets are covered well in brine (you can add brine if some spilled out during the fermentation process), you can leave them at room temperature for a while.
I left my beets out on a shelf at room temperature for 3 months. They held great and I had no problem. The only thing that I noticed is that after about three months they start to soften. If you like your beets soft then that should be ok. I like them firm so I moved the jar (I had one left) into the fridge.
If you leave your jar at room temperature, make sure to open it once a week or so and check that everything looks fine inside. When you grab a beet from the jar, make sure to always use a clean fork so you don’t introduce the wrong kind of bacteria.
We use fermented beets mainly as a snack, in salads, or as a side. I eat them whenever I feel like snacking a little something (they are a much better choice than a cookie or chips!) or when I eat a sandwich. They are a great side for any sandwich.
They are also a great addition to many salads. They will be a great addition to this Mediterranean egg salad, or this feta and pumpkin salad or many others. They are a yummy, healthy, and easy dish to make! I hope you’ll give them a try.
If you love beets, make sure to check out my favorite Israeli Beet Salad recipe!
- Enough beets to fill a quart jar
- 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
- Sea salt, kosher salt, or pickling salt
- Remove the greens and wash your beets.
- Remove the top and the root.
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
- Cut your beets as you wish (you can go with thin slices or cube the beets... It doesn't matter).
- Wash your jar with warm water and dish soap.
- Pack the jar with the beets. Make sure to leave 1'' headspace.
- Add the mustard seeds or other seasonings (see notes).
- Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a cup of water and add it to the jar. Repeat until the jar is filled with the brine.
- Place a fermentation weight on top of the beets. Make sure the beets are covered with the brine.
- Close the jar with the lid and band and set on a plate to catch any liquid that will spill out in the fermentation process.
- Place your jar at room temperature to ferment.
- After a couple of days, you'll see bubbles starting to form inside the jar. Make sure to open the jar once a day to let the gas out then close it again (just twist the lid as if you are going to open the jar and after a few seconds twist it back again).
- The brine in the jar will become foggy and then after about a week, it will clear again. When the brine is clear again the beets are ready.
- Store the jar in the fridge or a root cellar (30-40 degrees is best).
If you like the taste of vinegar, feel free to add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water as well.
You can make a brine that is a little less salty but don't do less than a teaspoon of salt per one cup of water.
You can add mustard seeds, peppercorns, red chili flakes, dill, rosemary, pickling mix, thyme... Really there are so many options. I like to keep it simple but you can try different seasonings and figure out what you like best.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 quart
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 119Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 12844mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 5gSugar: 16gProtein: 5g
Hi! I’m Lady Lee. I help homesteaders simplify their homesteading journey while still producing a ton of food! I am a single mother of four, I was born in Israel and raised in an agricultural commune called a Kibbutz. Now I homestead in central NC.