• When possible, preserve fresh, locally-grown beets for the best quality and nutritional value.
  • Know when fresh beets are available in your state with this seasonal food guide.

1. Selection

  • An average of 21 pounds (without tops) is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 13-1/2 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel (without tops) weighs 52 pounds and yields 15 to 20 quarts--an average of 3 pounds per quart.
  • Beets with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches are preferred for whole packs. Beets larger than 3 inches in diameter are often fibrous.

Recipes

If this is your first time canning or it has been awhile, it is recommended that you read Using Pressure Canners and General Canning Information before beginning.  

2. Ingredients

  • 21 pounds of beets (makes 7 quarts) -or-
  • 13 1/2 pounds beets (makes 9 pints)
  • Canning and pickling salt (1/2 teaspoon/pint or 1 teaspoon/quart)--optional 

3. Equipment

  • Pressure canner: A specially-made heavy pot with a rack and a lid that can be closed tightly to prevent steam from escaping. The lid is fitted with a vent (or petcock), a dial or weighted pressure gauge and built-in safety features. It must be large enough to hold at least four quart-size jars.  
  • Canning jars: Use standard canning jars without cracks or chips (see recipe for sizes)
  • Lids and bands: Bands can be reused if they are in good shape, but lids must be new to ensure a proper seal
  • Long-handled spoon
  • Wide-mouth funnel
  • Jar lifter (for moving jars into/out of the canner)
  • Lid wand (magnetic tool used to transfer lids to jars)  
  • Bubble freer, or a plastic or rubber knife-like utensil
  • Ruler for measuring headspace (some bubble removers include this feature)
  • Large covered cooking pot 
  • Medium pot for extra boiling water
  • Towels or wire rack for cooling jars
  • Paper towels
  • Hot pads
  • Cutting board
  • Knives
  • Timer or clock

4. Prepare Canning Equipment

Pressure Canner-

  • Assemble and wash equipment and containers.
    • Wash canning jars in soapy water, rinse, and keep hot. (This can be done in a dishwasher or by placing jars in the water that is heating in your canner.)
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for preparing lids.
  • Put the rack and hot water into the canner. If the amount of water is not specified for a given food, use enough water so it is 2 to 3 inches high in the canner. (Always follow the directions with USDA processes for specific foods if they require more water be added to the canner.)
    • For hot packed foods, you can bring the water to 180 degrees F ahead of time, but be careful not to boil the water or heat it long enough for the depth to decrease.
  • Begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.

5. Prepare Ingredients

  • Trim off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots to reduce bleeding of color.
  • Scrub well.
  • In a large pot, cover with boiling water. Boil until skins slip off easily; about 15 to 25 minutes depending on size.
  • Cool just enough to handle without burning yourself, then remove skins, and trim off stems and roots. The beets should remain warm or hot going into the jars.
  • Can leave baby beets whole. Cut medium or large beets into 1/2-inch cubes or slices. Halve or quarter very large slices.

6. Pack Jars

  • Add up to 1/2 teaspoon salt/pint jar or 1 teaspoon of salt/quart jar, if desired.
  • Fill jars with hot beets and fresh hot water that has been brought to a boil first (not the water you used to boil the beets), leaving 1-inch headspace.
  • Remove air bubbles.
  • Add more liquid, if needed for 1-inch headspace.
  • Wipe rims with clean, wet paper towel.
  • Place lids on jars and add screw bands. Screw the bands down fingertip tight- not too loose nor too tight. Follow lid manufacturer's directions for tightening the jar lids properly.

7. Process Jars

Pressure Canner-

  • Place filled jars, fitted with lids and ring bands, on the jar rack in the canner, using a jar lifter. When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter is securely-positioned below the neck of the jar (below the ring band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times since tilting the jar can cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid.
  • Fasten the canner lid securely. Leave the weight off the vent pipe or open the petcock.
  • Turn the heat setting to its highest position. Heat until the water boils and steam flows freely in a funnel-shape from the open vent pipe or petcock. While maintaining the high heat setting, let the steam flow (exhaust) continuously for 10 minutes.
  • After this venting, or exhausting, of the canner, place the counterweight or weighted gauge on the vent pipe, or close the petcock. The canner will pressurize during the next 3 to 10 minutes.
  • Refer to the tables below for the correct pressure and processing times for your elevation, gauge type and jar size
  • Start timing the canning process when the pressure reading on the dial gauge indicates that the recommended pressure for your elevation has been reached, or when the weighted gauge begins to jiggle or rock.
    • One type of weighted gauge should jiggle a certain number of times per minute, while another type should rock slowly throughout the process – check the manufacturer’s directions!
  • Regulate heat under the canner to maintain a steady pressure at or slightly above the correct gauge pressure.

IMPORTANT: If at any time pressure goes below the recommended amount, bring the canner back to pressure and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning (using the total original process time). This is important for the safety of the food because loss of pressure at any time can result in under-processing, or unsafe food and quick and large pressure variations during processing may cause unnecessary liquid losses from jars.

  • When the timed process is completed, turn off the heat, remove the canner from the heat (electric burner) if possible, and let the canner cool down naturally. (Lift the canner to move it; do not slide the canner. It is also okay to leave the canner in place after you have turned off the burner. It is better to do so than to let jars inside the canner tilt or tip over if the canner is too heavy to move easily.)
  • While the canner is cooling, it is also de-pressurizing. Do not force cool the canner. Forced cooling may result in food spoilage. Cooling the canner with cold running water or opening the vent pipe before the canner is fully depressurized are types of forced cooling. They will also cause loss of liquid from jars and seal failures. Forced cooling may also warp the canner lid.
  • Even after a dial gauge canner has cooled until the dial reads zero pounds pressure, be cautious in removing the weight from the vent pipe. Tilt the weight slightly to make sure no steam escapes before pulling it all the way off. Newer canners will also have a cover lock in the lid or handle that must release after cooling before the lids are twisted off. Do not force the lid open if the cover locks are not released. Manufacturers will provide more detailed instructions for particular models.
  • Depressurization of older canner models without dial gauges should be timed. Standard size heavy-walled canners require about 30 minutes when loaded with pints and 45 minutes when loaded with quarts. Newer thin-walled canners cool more rapidly and are equipped with vent locks that are designed to open when the pressure is gone. These canners are depressurized when the piston in the vent lock drops to a normal position. Some of these locks are hidden in handles and cannot be seen; however, the lid will not turn open until the lock is released.
  • After the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weight from the vent pipe or open the petcock. Wait 10 minutes; then unfasten the lid and remove it carefully. Lift the lid with the underside away from you so that the steam coming out of the canner does not burn your face.
  • Using a jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time, being careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.
  • Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.
  • Once cool, remove the screw bands and check the seal. If any jars did not seal, treat the food as 'fresh' by:
    • Eating the food immediately
    • Refrigerating for use within a week
    • Freezing
    • Recanning (If recanned, you must repeat the entire process.)

8. Store

  • Wipe the jars clean and label with the date and processing method.
  • Store in a cool, dark place, where there is no danger of freezing.
  • Before tasting or serving, boil all home-canned, low-acid vegetables 10 minutes plus one minute for 1,000 feet.

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Weighted gauge pressure canner-Process PINTS for 30 minutes
0-1,000 ft 1,001-10,000 ft
10 lbs 15 lbs
Weighted gauge pressure canner-Process QUARTS for 35 minutes
0-1,000 ft 1,001-10,000 ft
10 lbs 15 lbs
Dial gauge pressure canner-Process PINTS for 30 minutes
0-2,000 ft 2,001-4,000 ft 4,001-6,000 ft 6,001-8,000 ft 8,001-10,000 ft
11 lbs 12 lbs 13 lbs 14 lbs 15 lbs
Dial gauge pressure canner-Process QUARTS for 35 minutes
0-2,000 ft 2,001-4,000 ft 4,001-6,000 ft 6,001-8,000 ft 8,001-10,000 ft
11 lbs 12 lbs 13 lbs 14 lbs 15 lbs