Naturally Fermented Beets (and Spiced Beet Eggs)


Homemade Holiday: Memories This summer I posted about one of my favorites, Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Beet Eggs. I’ll admit its odd but they are a very sentimental food to me. I often joke that I’m practically an orphan, especially now days. The sunshine in my early childhood was my maternal grandmother. She was the only biological grandparent I ever had the chance of knowing. I fondly remember her as what my husband calls “ornery.” It sounds like an odd way to describe someone you love dearly however, that is kind of who she was, and why I loved her. She was a woman who lived and died by her own terms and I absolutely adored her. She always had a pot of coffee, a pack of Marlboro’s, and something to say. A family tradition she looked forward to was the smorgasbord. I really don’t remember her eating very much… ever, but I do remember she loved her purple eggs. She passed when I was about seven, and although she was in my life for such a brief period of time she instilled a lot into me.

My memories of her include some of my first food traditions, purple eggs and of course gingerbread. Rolling dough with her made me feel like I was on top of the world! The smell of sweet and sour beets, coffee and cloves are forever a little tidbit of Grandma. Every time I make these, she’s right here with me. The original Dutch Beet recipe utilizes a lot of sugar and vinegar. Although perfect, delicious and IDEAL for stocking up your pantry this time I wanted to go for something a little more natural and healthy. Seeing that I’m the only one in the house that will come near these beauties, I wanted to do something without refined sugar, and of course I went the naturally fermented route. For a few months now I’ve been experimenting with my fermentables. Natural fermentation is one of my favorite things. I love the sense of pride when a batch of mead comes out amazing, the sense of accomplishment, when sourdough bread is just sublime. 

So far I’ve posted my fermented salsa, and fermented salsa verde recipes, but those are only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been doing a great deal of experimenting. I’ve had my successes, and I’ve had a few not- successes. Although I’d like to say I’m perfect I have made a few batches of unintentional vinegar, and I’ve entirely forgotten about a fair share of things. You live and learn. (If your me, you live and learn then forget what it was you learned, and do it all over again.) A little bit ago Nourished Kitchen posted something somewhere about lacto fermented beets. (and eggs) I can not find the linkage so either I’m crazy or confused, or maybe a little of both. This recipe is a happy combination of recipes. Classically wonderful with a twist. I naturally fermented the beets, I left out the sugar, and I refined my spice roster. The outcome was what I will simply call miraculous. Fizzy beets, perfectly aromatic cloves and of course the creamy, dreamy egg. These are perfect for gnoshing as-is but also make dramatic deviled eggs, and they are GREAT with a Cobb salad. Did I mention? No sugar.  Naturally fermented. Purple Eggs!

Lacto-Fermented, Naturally Pickled Beets
This is a no-recipe type recipe. As useless as it sounds I promise its easy with satisfying results.
  • 2 large beets, sliced or quartered 
  • Boiled and cooled water
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, starter or whey (optional)

You can go a few ways with this recipe. Last time I made pickled beets I canned them raw. This time I tried roasting them. Normally I peel my beets before I roast them, this time I did not and I wish that I did. The benefit of roasting was that they were very pliable and juicy, (lets face it I was in it for the juice) the negative: by pliable I mean kind of mushy. You can peel and thinly slice the beets and ferment them raw or roast them whole in a 375 degree oven until they are tender. (then slice or quarter them) Place peeled and sliced beets into a clean glass, non metallic jar or crock and cover with boiled and cooled water and 1-2 teaspoons of salt per quart jar. You can use a starter culture or whey. (from homemade yogurt cheese maybe?) Cover with a lid and allow to rest at room temperature 2-3 days. When you open the lid they should smell fresh, sweet and hardly sour.

Beets are naturally sweet which make them perfect for this recipe. They will taste almost identical to sweet and sour pickled beets and that is the miracle. Beets + water = a pretty similar result. Effervescent and sweet the fermented beets alone are remarkable. The Beet egg “recipe” follows.

Spiced Beet Eggs

  • Juice and beets from Pickled Beets
  • 4-6 hard boiled eggs 
  • Water
  • 2 cloves

Capturing the flavor of pickled eggs is trickier with this recipe vs. traditional dutch eggs. Typically you would use a sugar and vinegar solution to spread the beet love flavor. You do not want to use vinegar in this case because it is a natural antiseptic. It will kill the healthy bacteria you worked so “hard” to get. If you used roasted beets you can simply whiz some of them in a blender.

Ready? Steady? Purple Eggs! – Layer beets and eggs into a jar. Pour any beet juice over top. Place cloves in, cover with water as needed, cover and soak in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Four days for optimal purpleness.

Starters, Salt, Whey, Why? When I am fermenting things I really don’t like using too much salt, and I really don’t think you need a starter. This isn’t my first rodeo, when considering natural fermented products you want to keep in mind safety guidelines and come to your own conclusions. My fermentables usually include me shoving things into a jar and letting it go. That is literally all I do. Not that I’m suggesting you do the same, I’m just saying that is what I do. So Why Whey? … I don’t know. Insurance?