Mexico produces over 17 thousand tons of beets a year. Though not native to Mexico, beets are a national favorite. Mexicans eat them cooked and raw. Beets appear regularly in juices, smoothies, salads and desserts. The beloved “vampiro” drink, made from beet juice, celery and carrot, is a trusted cure-all for the gambit of ailments from high blood pressure to hangovers and is found readily in every city and town. On Christmas Eve an elaborate and traditional salad of beets is served. A less cumbersome, but still festive, beet delivery method is through one of Mexico’s favorites preparations: “escabeche,” the process of cooking in acids.
“Betabeles escabeche” are an unusually tasty snack or “botana.” Botanas are the small snacks one eats, in the streets, before meals, or at bars. As such they are perfect for the cocktail hour, or for New Year’s eve, when the meal is late. In the botana line-up, betabeles escabeche are a delight, simple to prepare in advance, brilliant on the table, and an excellent companion to cheese, chicken, and fish; pickled beets will likely become a favorite side to main dishes, in addition to a trusted cocktail hour nibble. Pair them with “queso fresco” (or Greek feta) in a warm tortilla to appease a peckish pang.
The salt and sugar in this recipe are suggested amounts and can be adjusted as preferences dictate.
2 Quart sauce pan
1 Medium non-reactive bowl
1 Medium strainer
3 Medium beets (about one pound)
2 Large cloves peeled garlic (coarsley chopped)
1 Teaspoon cane sugar
1½ Teaspoons salt
2 Cups white vinegar
1 Bay leaf
1 Cinnamon stick (Ceylon)
3 Allspice berries
1. Scrub, dry, and wrap beets individually in foil. Roast in oven at 375˚ for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and remove the skin.
2. Cut beets into bite-size cubes, or as preferred, and place in the bowl.
3. In saucepan add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and pour through strainer over beets. Allow to cool.
5. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
6. Drain away liquid and serve.