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Canning is a common method of preserving fresh beets. Home canning provides a way for people to preserve their beet harvest or buy beets in bulk at a discount during the season and preserve them for year-round use. Home-canning beets requires the use of a properly working pressure canner and beets at the prime of their season and freshness. It also is essential to properly prepare and pack the beets, either whole or sliced, before canning them.
Before canning beets or other low-acid foods, a person should ensure that his or her pressure cooker is working properly, including having the dial gauge tested for accuracy. An inaccurate gauge may require replacement to ensure the beets are properly processed. One should not attempt to can regular beets using the boiling water bath method, because this is not sufficient to kill bacteria, leaving the beets under-processed and susceptible to spoilage. An exception to this is pickled beets, which can safely be canned in a boiling water bath, because of the added acidity of the pickling process. A person who does not have a pressure canner and doesn't want to pickle them can freeze beets as a safe alternative.
When choosing beets for canning, a person should be sure they are no more than 1 to 2 inches in diameter (2.54 to 5 cm), because larger beets tend to be too fibrous and stringy. The best beets for canning are a dark, deep red in color and free from skin blemishes or damage. A person who is canning beets harvested from a garden should try to harvest them all at once and not store them for more than a couple days before preserving. The stems, roots and skin should be left intact. The whole beets should be boiled just until the skins slip off easily, approximately 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size.
Beet skins are easier to slip off if a person peels them while running them under cold water, though effort should be made to keep the beets hot. Be careful when peeling the beets, because juice will quickly stain clothing, counters and wood and plastic surfaces. Canning beets whole is best for baby beets, while medium or large beets are best canned in cubes or slices. Hot beets should be packed in hot pint- or quart-size jars, leaving a 1-inch (2.54 cm) headspace after boiling water is poured over the beets. The beets should then be processed in a pressure canner according to the manufacturer's directions.
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