Pickling is a time honored way to preserve garden produce. The high acidity of pickled goods allows home canning without pressure canning. A number of vegetables lend themselves well to pickling; beets are one of the best.
Harvest small- to medium-sized beets. Pull the entire beet and root up out of the ground. Cut off the greens but leave the root end. Wash off the dirt outside with a garden hose before bringing them into the house.
Put the beets into boiling unsalted water and cook until you can stick a fork in them. The cooking time varies depending on the size of the beets, but 5 to 10 minutes is a general range.
Drop the tenderized beets into cold water. A sink full of cold water works best. When they are cool enough to handle slip the skins off and slice off the stem and root ends of each beet. Cut larger ones into quarters; small beets can be left whole. Trim any bits of skin that did not slip off and also any bad spots.
Prepare the pickling solution. The basic ingredients for pickling are vinegar, water and salt. Most pickled beet recipes are sweet pickle varieties and include sugar. General proportions for pickling beets are 1 part water to 3 parts vinegar. Sugar and vinegar are included in equal portions or the amount of sugar may be reduced for a less sweet pickle.
Add spices to the pickling solution. Options include cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Either whole or ground spices will work. Place the spices in a cloth spice bag, available in the canning supplies section at hardware stores and in housewares departments. Drop the bag into the pickling solution.
Combine the prepared beets and the pickling solution in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the spice bag.
Pack the beets into hot canning jars and ladle the pickling solution over them. Leave a 1/4 inch space between the liquid fill line and the jar lid. Processing time for beets in a water bath canner is 30 minutes for both pints and quarts. Allow the jars to cool completely before labeling and storing. They will easily keep for a couple of years in a cool, dark place.