Corned beets. It started out more as a pun then anything else, but I figured beets cooked with the spices typically associated with corned beef would be good. Then I tried an iteration with the ChefSteps House Rub 01 and that was also fantastic.
In any case, it is the texture that makes these beets delightful. They are completely cooked, yet they have a satisfying chew. First I cook them in the brine, then dehydrate them. On the first try, I dehydrated for far too long and they turned into dry, salty chips. I was just about to throw them in the compost when Grant suggested I try rehydrating them. Voila! The excess salt washed away, there was still a nice bite from the spices, and the texture was awesome.
The flavors, both of the beets and the resemblance to cured meats suggest the right accompaniments. They are terrific on a simple sandwich of toasted rye or pumpernickel with just some mayo and strong mustard. If you happen to have some leftover crispy shallots from last week’s Vietnamese salad though, holy cow your sandwich just got an awesome crunch added to it. Or, you can take the beets and fancy them up a little like in the photo above – with toasted German pumpernickel, sour cream, pickled shallot, capers, and watercress. Whatever you do, be sure to include something with an acidic punch to play against the earthiness of the beets.
If you want to use the corned beef spices, make up just the spice mixture part of this recipe from Elise and then measure out the amount you need.
I’ve only ever made this recipe by cooking the beets sous vide and drying them in a fancy-pants dehydrator, and rehydrating them in a chamber vacuum. But I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work to cook them in a pot, dry them in a low oven, and rehydrate (more slowly) without a vacuum. You’ll have to experiment a little, but it should be just fine. If you do, please report back! I’ve given my best-guess directions below.
- 500 grams water
- 10 to 20 grams kosher salt (see below)
- 18 grams sugar
- 15 to 22 grams spice mix (see below)
- 1000 grams peeled and thinly-sliced (about 2mm) beets (from about 1800 grams whole beets)
- Whisk together the water, salt, sugar, and spice mixture. If using the ChefSteps House Rub 01, use the smaller amounts of salt and spice mix. If using Elise's corned beef spice mix, use the larger amounts. Taste and adjust seasoning - it should definitely be salty, but not unbearably, and it should have a definite spice kick.
- If you have sous vide equipment available, seal the beets with the brine and cook at 85 C / 185 F until very tender, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Otherwise, bring to a simmer in a pot and cook until tender, adding water as needed to keep the beets just covered.
- If you have a dehydrator available, dehydrate at 145 F until very dry and leathery, about 4 hours. Otherwise, place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet in your oven at the lowest possible temperature. That will probably be about 170 F, so you'll have to keep a closer eye on them. I'd expect it will take about 2 hours. Use convection if available to maximize airflow.
- If you have a chamber vacuum available, seal the beets with a minimal amount of water at maximum vacuum to quickly rehydrate. Otherwise, put them in a covered bowl in the refrigerator with just enough water to cover, and check them every half-hour or so until pleasantly chewy. Drain off excess water. The beets are now ready to use.