This recipe is borne of a lovely conversation with a dear friend. We got to know each other when we were thrown together in high school maths and have been firm friends ever since. We’ve spent more time living apart from each other than in the same city. Sometimes we’ve been in different countries, but we’re never really that far away from each other. We’re coming up on 20 years of friendship. That I cannot believe.
I had my laptop propped up on our kitchen bench as we chatted and I chopped. And chopped and chopped. Two kilograms of beetroot peeled, ground and sliced, and 750g of onions peeled and ground and all mixed together later, and I realised I hadn’t been following a recipe.
A major boo-boo in the world of preserves.
We finished our conversation and I did some research online and developed this recipe. I was keen to find a relish which was mainly beetroot, and which didn’t contain apple.
The end result is spicy and has a bit of a kick. It has a great beetroot-y texture, with none of the goopy softness which sometimes find with chutney. I know it’s good because Alex requested a spoonful as I wandered past him after taking some pictures. It will be better in a month after it has had time to mature. I plan to serve it with cold meats and fetta cheese, with burgers and on cheese platters. And sometimes, probably, with vintage cheddar on toast.
Two kilograms is a fairly formidable quantity of beetroot. This batch made a good 12 8oz (235ml) jars. You could easily halve it for a more manageable amount.
For food safety reasons it’s important you process your relish in a boiling water bath. This can be as simple as a large soup pot with a rack or folded tea towel in the base. Likewise, food safety considerations mean you shouldn’t try to reduce the vinegar. I added a bit more than some recipes indicate, but only because I wanted to make sure I was making a safe relish – and because this recipe is apple-free…and apples are acidic. Only acidic relishes are safe to preserve in a boiling water bath as the pH protects the product from bacterial growth.
Other notes? Well, peeling beetroot is a messy business. I leave a few inches of the stalks intact and use them as a handle to keep a good hold on the vegetable, chopping the stalk off when the rest of the vegetable is peeled. I strongly recommend you wear gloves!
You have a few choices for the way you prepare your beetroot for this relish. You could dice or slice them finely. You could grate them coarsely (very messy if done by hand), or you could run them through a food grinder. I chose a bit of a mix because I like the texture of my relishes to be uneven. I fed two thirds of my beets through my food grinder (at it’s coarsest setting), and chopped the remaining third into matchsticks.
Chatterbox beetroot relish
2kg fresh beetroot
1l (4 cups) white vinegar (apple cider or malt vinegar would also be suitable)
650g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 generous tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
Zest and juice of two oranges
Wash and peel beetroot. Slice, grate or grind the beetroot and onion to the desired texture (see notes above).
Put all ingredients into a non-reactive, wide-mouthed, heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Reduce temperature and keep at a simmer, uncovered, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon and keeping a good eye on it to avoid burning.
Simmer until the beetroot is cooked and the relish has reached your desired consistency – I wait until a wooden spoon dragged through the pot leaves enough of a trail behind it that you can see the bottom of the pan. Leave the relish a little wetter than you may like – it will firm up during processing. This process could take up to 2 hours. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard.
Using a wide-mouthed funnel, ladle the relish into sterilised jars. Tap the jars on the bench to remove bubbles. Put the lids according the jars’ manufacturing instructions and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (if you wish to use larger jars, I recommend you do some research to determine how long you should process them for).
Using bottle tongs, remove the jars from the water bath and place on a dry tea towel in a draught-free location. Leave to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Test seals (if any haven’t sealed, pop them in the fridge and use them first).
Label and store in a cool, dark place. If sealed correctly, the relish should last unopened on the shelf for up to a year.