• 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

  • Approximately 7 pounds of fresh beets are needed to make 8 pints of pickled beets. 

  • Select fresh, firm beets with a diameter of 1 to 2-1/2 inches. Beets larger than 3 inches in diameter are often fibrous. 


If this is your first time pickling, or it has been awhile, it is recommended that you read Using Boiling Water CannersGeneral Canning Information, and General Pickling Information before beginning.  

2. Ingredients

(Makes ~8 pints)

  • 7 lbs of 2- to 2-1/2-inch diameter beets (or 1- to 1-1/2 inch beets for whole baby beets)
  • 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons canning or pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 4 to 6 onions (2- to 2-1/2-inch diameter) optional/if desired

3. Equipment

  • Water bath canner: Large covered pot (with a tight-fitting cover and a rack) that is deep enough to cover the rack and canning jars by 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. (At least 10 inches deep for pint jars, and 12 inches deep for quart 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
  • Lid wand (for lifting and placing lids on  jars) 
  • Bubble freer, or a plastic or rubber knife-like utensil (for removing air bubbles from jars)
  • Ruler for measuring headspace. (Some bubble freers include this feature)
  • Large bowl
  • 4-quart pot 
  • Medium pot for extra boiling water
  • Towels or wire rack for cooling jars
  • Clean white cloth or cheesecloth for spices
  • Paper towels
  • Hot pads
  • Cutting board
  • Knives
  • Timer or clock

4. Prepare Canning Equipment

Water Bath 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.
  • Place rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner. Fill the canner approximately half full with clean warm water for a canner load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, you will need to adjust the amount of water so it will be 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.
  • Center the canner over the burner and preheat the water to 140 degrees F for raw-packed foods.
  • In medium pot, boil some extra water to use later, as needed, to cover the jars.
  • Begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.

5. Prepare Ingredients

Prepare Beets-

  • Trim off beet tops, leaving 1 inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color.
  • Wash thoroughly and sort for size.
  • Cover similar sizes together with boiling water and cook until tender (about 25 to 30 minutes). Caution: Drain and discard liquid. 
  • Cool beets.
  • Trim off roots and stems and slip off skins.
  • For larger beets (2- to 2-1/2 inch), slice into 1/4-inch slices. Smaller beets (1- to 1-1/2 inch) can be left whole.  
  • Peel and thinly slice onions.
  • Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and fresh water in a saucepan.
  • Put spices in cheesecloth bag and add to vinegar mixture. Bring to a boil.
  • Add beets and onions. Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Remove spice bag.

6. Pack Jars

  • Fill jars with beets and onions, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  • Add hot vinegar solution, allowing 1/2-inch headspace.
  • Remove air bubbles and add more pickling solution, as needed, to achieve 1/2-inch headspace.
  • Wipe jar rims with a clean, wet paper towel.
  • Place lid on jar and add screw band. Screw the band down fingertip tight- not too loose nor too tight. Follow lid manufacturer's directions for tightening the jar lids properly.

7. Process Jars

Water Bath Canner-

  • With jar lifter, place jars on canning rack in large pot, which is filled with hot water. Jars should not touch each other.
  • Add or remove boiling water as needed until jars are covered by 1" - 2".
  • Turn heat to high and bring to a vigorous boil. Set timer for correct processing time. Refer to the tables below for processing time for your elevation and jar size.
  • Cover canner with lid and lower heat setting to maintain a gentle boil throughout processing time.
  • When processing time is up, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
  • Using jar lifter, remove jars and place them on a rack or dry towel.
  • Allow the jars to cool untouched, away from drafts, for 12 to 24 hours before testing lid seals.
  • Once cool, remove the screw bands and check the seal.
  • CAUTION! If any jars do not seal, they are NOT shelf-stable and should be stored in the refrigerator until consumed.

8. Store

  • Label jars with date and processing information.
  • Store in a cool, dark place, where there is no danger of freezing.
  • For best flavor, wait five to six weeks before opening.

Not sure of your elevation? Click here

Water Bath Processing Time--Pints or Quarts
0-1,000 ft 1,001-3,000 ft 3,001-6,000 ft 6,001-10,000 ft
30 minutes 35 minutes 40 minutes 45 minutes