Whey, the nutritious by-product of the cheesemaking and yogurtmaking process, is full of Lactobacilli, so it serves as a fantastic fermentation starter. This recipe is inspired by rosl, a Jewish specialty from the Ukraine that calls for pickling beets in brine. The sweet, spiced beets are seasoned with orange zest and mustard seeds, and make for a delicious accompaniment to roast meats or fish. You can purchase whey online or make your own by draining store-bought live-culture yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined mesh sieve over a bowl: The drained liquid is whey. This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Sara Dickerman's article Preserving Plenty.
- 4 medium beets, peeled and sliced into 1/8"-thick rounds
- 1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. whole allspice berries
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1" pieces ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- Zest of 1 orange, cut off in wide strips
- 2 tbsp. whey
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 3 cups filtered water, warmed
- Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add beets; cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let sit for 2 minutes to chill. Drain and place beets in a sterilized 1-qt. glass jar along with mustard seeds, allspice berries, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. In a medium bowl, stir together whey, honey, and filtered water; pour over beets until covered. Pour any remaining brine or water into a resealable plastic sandwich bag, and place bag on top of beets to keep them submerged.
Drape a large kitchen towel over the jar, and let sit at room temperature (ideally 70°–75°) until beets have cured to your taste, about 1 week. Once beets are cured, season them with kosher or sea salt to taste, cover jar with lid, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.