Fermented beet pickles are similar to sauerkraut in texture and flavor profile, but made with beets. (If you’re looking for the traditional sweet beet pickles, here they are.) Toss them in a salad, or serve on a mezze plate with other pickled and prepared things. The optional middle eastern spices add some nice complexity and are highly recommended. Makes 2 pints.
2 lbs firm red beets, cleaned and peeled
1/4 c kosher, non-iodized salt
1 T cumin seed, optional
1 1/2 t ground sumac, optional
Method: shred the beets with the coarse side of a box grater. Transfer to a glass or ceramic fermenting vessel (a wide mouth canning jar works fine), adding a big spoonful of beets, a small spoonful of salt, repeating until the salt is evenly distributed among all the beet shreds. Press the top layer down and cover with something that is as close to the diameter of the fermenting vessel as possible; a slightly smaller canning jar, with something in it to add weight, is ideal. Cover with a dishtowel and leave in a dark cool place for 3-5 days until fermentation begins and the beets have thrown off some liquid.
Transfer to a bowl (or leave in the jar, if there’s room to really mix the pickles with a big spoon) and mix in some salt water (1 T kosher salt dissolved in 1 pint water) and the optional spices; return to fermentation vessel, press down and continue to add water until top surface of beets is covered. Check daily for fermentation and taste, and spoon off any mold that develops. After another week the beets should be noticeably and pleasantly sour; you can let them ferment a little longer or refrigerate to slow the process. Refrigerated beet pickles should keep a month or more.
VARIATION: substitute 1 T caraway seeds for the cumin and sumac. You now have an eastern European beet pickle you can use to make borscht.