This is kind of an ode to the humble beet. I love beets. Especially roasted. And as a dip (this recipe is the goods). Raw in salads. OK, and pickled too, on sandwiches with sharp cheddar – a lunchbox staple when I was a kid and a combination I hang onto still. I had a bunch of beets in the fridge, patiently waiting for me to summons the time to prepare them. Have to admit, despite my love of beetroot, I find them a pain to prepare. They’re messy. And I don’t like to use the oven unless I’m really making full use of it – and a few sad beets didn’t really warrant turning it on. So these beets hung out in the crisper for probably a couple of weeks. Stoic beets held their form, and I finally found the time to do something with them: a relish.
I searched all kinds of recipes, some involved, some less so, most loaded with sugar. The recipe I went with has no sugar, and required no cooking. (Boxes ticked all over the place.) It’s straight from Nourished Kitchen, a brilliant resource for anyone wanting to learn about traditional food preparation (that would be me). Being sadly unschooled in fermenting my own foods, I followed this recipe for Probiotic Apple and Beetroot Relish to the letter. And then waited a few days for the beneficial bacteria to do their thing…
After a week of fermenting, we tried some with cheese and biscuits, and later on, dolloped atop some ‘roo. The result was sweet (from the apples), earthy and deeply spiced, just right for a winter-time condiment. And the colour! Deepest bloody magenta pinks and maroons, delight to behold in the waning autumn light, a kiss on the plate.
I’m thinking this relish would be great on sandwiches or as an accent to a warm pumpkin salad or – for omnivores – just about any meat. Or spooned over a tofu burger.
Beetroot is great for the blood and an intestinal and liver cleanser, and very good for our growing Bunyip. The bacteria which occur during the natural fermentation process make this relish probiotic, which can help improve the microbial balance in your gut – much like a live-cultured yoghurt. You don’t need any special ingredients for this – the addition of unrefined sea-salt to the apples and beets is enough to fire up the fermentation process. You can use a vegetable starter culture if you like, but it’s not necessary.
So that’s my ode to the beet. How are you enjoying them this season?
Don’t let the amount of salt put you off; the result is not at all salty. The salt draws out the juices of the apples and beets and somehow disappears in the taste of the final product. Highly recommend rubber gloves for working with the beets. This recipe is very clove-heavy: use half a tablespoon or less if you’re not that into cloves. I don’t have a vegetable fermenter, but this worked fine in a kilner jar. The original recipe suggests giving the relish a pulse in the blender – I skipped this step for a more textured result.
3 large apples, cored but not peeled
3 large beets, peeled
2 star anise pods
1 tbspn whole cloves
1 tbspn unrefined sea-salt
fermented vegetable starter culture (optional)
1 mason/kilner jar or vegetable fermenter
Grate the apples into a large bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, peel the beetroots and grate into the same bowl. Toss together until well mixed. Add the star anise and cloves and mix again. Layer the mixture into your jar, sprinkling with sea-salt or culture in between the layers and mashing with a wooden spoon or tamping implement as you go. The mashing/tamping releases the apple and beet juices, which combines with the salt to create a brine to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Make sure the brine completely covers the apples and beets. If it doesn’t, create more brine by adding a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and pour over as much as needed to cover the mix. You may need to tamp the apples and beets down to submerge them. Any exposed matter will be prone to mould – I discarded the top layer, the rest of the relish was fine.
Ferment for a minimum of 3-4 days or for a week. Remove from jar, pick out and discard cloves and star anise, and process in a blender if you like.
Makes about a cup and a half of relish, which keeps refrigerated for six weeks or longer.