Vegan Grandma

Monday, October 09, 2006

Harvard Beets and a Little About Beets

When I was a child, I loved my mother’s Harvard Beets. This is a classic New England dish. I think my mother got it from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was her cooking bible. I did not make it today, because I can’t have so much sugar, but if sugar isn’t a problem for you, Harvard beets are great. I made the second recipe on this page, Sesame Beets. It’s a good recipe, too, and it doesn’t use much sugar.

Harvard Beets
serves 4 to 6

12 small or 6 large beets
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup mild vinegar
2 tablespoons soy margarine (O.K., my mother used butter, but she wasn’t vegan.)

Scrub and then boil the un-peeled beets (with about 1 inch of stem attached) in a large saucepan, until the beets are tender. Cool, and rub off the skin, roots, and stems. Slice the beets.

In a saucepan with a lid, combine sugar, cornstarch, cold water, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring until the sauce is thick and clear.

Add the sliced beets to the sauce, and stir gently to coat the beets. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, reheat and gently stir in the soy margarine until the margarine is melted.

Sesame Beets
from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, by the Moosewood Collective, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.,201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022, page 140
Serves 4

1 pound beets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds*
2 tablespoons minced onions or scallions
1 teaspoon sugar (more if your beets are not sweet)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

*Toast sesame seeds on an unoiled baking sheet in an oven at 350 degrees F. for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant and golden brown.

Scrub the beets, but do not peel them. Leave about 1 inch of stem attached Bring the beets to a boil in a large saucepan. Lower the heat and simmer covered for about 30 or 40 minutes until the beets are tender (when they can be easily pierced with a knife tip). Cool, and rub off the skins. Slice the beets. Toss with lemon juice, vinegar, sesame seeds, onions or scallions, and sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

A Little About Beets

Beets come in a range of colors, pink, red, white, gold, and two-tone.

Beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, but are low in calories.

Beets are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They contain significant amounts of vitamin C in the roots, and the tops are an excellent source of vitamin A. They are also high in folate, potassium, and calcium as well as soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and several antioxidants.

Both the beet greens and the beet root are eaten. They are used raw or cooked. Beet leaves can be cooked like spinach, eaten raw in salads, and are used in 'beet rolls', a food similar to cabbage rolls.

Beet roots have a sweet, earthy flavor which is best combined with an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, or wine.

Small and medium-size beets are best. The larger beets are not very tender and may have a strong flavor. Purchase beets that are firm, not shriveled or flabby. Beets are best at their peak, July through October. Purchase beets with their green tops still attached. The beet greens should be bright green with no yellowing.

Remove the leaf top, leaving about 1 inch of sten attached (to minimize "bleeding"when cooking) before storing the beet root. The leaf top will pull moisture from the beet root and cause the root to deteriorate more quickly.

Beet greens should be eaten the day they are purchased, and beet roots should be eaten within 5 to 7 days.

Beetroot cells will 'bleed' when cut, heated, or when in contact with air or sunlight. Leaving the skin on when cooking, will minimize "bleeding". If you add 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to the cooking water, the red color will not fade.

Wear rubber gloves when you work with beets so you don’t stain your hands red.

Rub beet stains on hands or surfaces with salt, rinse, scrub with soap, and repeat until the stains disappear.

When preparing any dish that contains beets, add the beets last, so the beets don’t lose too much color, and don’t color the other foods red.

To prevent beets from staining a salad, toss the beets in vinaigrette and add to the salad just before serving.

Roasting beet roots in foil preserves and concentrates the flavor, and makes the beets tender. Wash the roots well, wrap each beet in foil, put in a baking tray in a single layer, and bake for 30 to 60 minutes until the tip of a knife can be inserted easily. Unwrap and peel. Use in any recipe that requires cooked beets.

Sources: .

Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale

Grandmother’s Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas, NV 89102

World Vegetarian, by Madhur Jeffreys, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York


  • At 11:20 PM, Blogger Mandy said…

    I substitute the sugar for Splenda in my Harvard beets recipe and they taste great!


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