Friday, June 10, 2011

Old School Harvard Beets with Beet Greens

Glazed Red Beets with Greens
Colorful Harvard Beet & their Greens

Recipe from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fanny Merritt Farmer,  and Robin

I like serving beets and their greens at the same meal. The sweetness of the beets and the slightly bitter earthiness of the greens compliment one another perfectly. In this Harvard beets recipe from the classic Boston Cooking School Cookbook, the glaze makes the beets taste even sweeter. Before glazing, the beets must be cooked thoroughly. Fanny Farmer, who wrote the cookbook in 1896, advises "Cook whole in boiling water. Young beets require 30 - 45 minutes, older ones 1 - 4 hours. Very old woody beets will never cook tender." Fortunately, modern beet varieties and cultivation methods have reduced cooking times as well as the woodiness factor.

Putting Sliced Beets into Bubbling Glaze
First Old School Ingredients: Sugar and White Vinegar
My mother and Fanny both advised cooking the beets before peeling, because the skins slip off easily when the beets are done. While this is true, I find scrubbing the beets beforehand tedious. Our local beets have a hard-to-scrub-off layer of clay on them, and if not completely removed, the clay taste permeates the beets during cooking. So I peel them first. Try both methods and see which works best for you.

Always cut the beets from their greens before storing them in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the greens will continue to suck water from their roots (the beets), and the texture of the beets can get dry or flabby.

Because the beet recipe has two steps and requires an hour of cooking time (or more, depending on the beets), I've opted for simply steamed beet greens. The only tweak I made to Fanny's original Harvard beet recipe is to cut it in half, using one (2011) standard bunch of beets.

Pat of Butter on Top of Glazed Beets
Last Old School Ingredient: Butter!
Harvard Beets
serves 2 - 3

6 small beets (one bunch)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup vinegar
1 tbsp. butter

Peel beets to remove all dirt and clay. Cook beets about 30 minutes in boiling water, until easily pierced with a fork. Slice crosswise into uniform rounds, about 3/8 inch thick.

Mix sugar and cornstarch together in frying or sauce pan. Add vinegar and water and boil 5 minutes. Add sliced beets to hot sauce, stir to coat, and let stand at least 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Just before serving, add butter and bring to boiling point.

Steamed Beet Greens
serves 2 - 3

Wash and chop beet greens and stems. Steam till tender, about 6 minutes. Older, larger greens may require another 1 - 3 minutes of steaming.

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