Fermented Beets With Orange and Ginger

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.

Fermented Beets With Orange and Ginger Fermented Beets With Orange and Ginger
This recipe is inspired by rosl—Ukrainian pickled beets. Seasoned with orange zest and mustard seeds, they are delicious served with roast meats or fish.
Yield: makes about 1 quart


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.