Pickled Beets with Bay Leaf and Juniper: A Staple for Your Scandinavian Pantry
August 26, 2020
In Norway the storehouse is called a stabbur. My ancestors would have worked throughout the warm months to prepare and preserve food to last through the winter. In a country with just three percent arable land, it was essential to their survival. These days, whether you live in the Norway or here in the United States where I call home, a pantry often holds a much different purpose. It’s a place to keep nonperishables, to be sure–canned and dried goods, stockpiles of food kept in case of an emergency (or the current COVID-19 pandemic), etc. But for most of us, it’s no longer necessarily a means of survival. But it sure is delicious, as these pickled beets with bay leaf and juniper prove.
Pickled beets add a jolt of color and flavor to a variety of Scandinavian dishes. In fact, it’s one of those recipes my readers request from time to time. This recipe is as simple as can be, with only six ingredients, including the salt and pepper. I don’t include instructions for canning or preserving, as that is not my intent with this small-batch recipe.
Rather, whip up a batch of these pickled beets with bay leaf and juniper and keep it in the refrigerator and see just how inspired you become in the week that follows.
To get you started, here are a few recipes that will definitely benefit from this punchy condiment:
Biff à la Lindström – A Scandinavian classic, people in Scandinavia have been enjoying biff à la Lindström for potentially over 150 years. There are a couple of stories about its origins, one being that Captain Henrik Lindstrom allegedly brought the dish from Russia to Sweden in May 1862 when he introduced it at Hotel Witt in Kalmar. Another story involves Norwegian chef and polar expeditioner Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm, who was involved in three famous Norwegian polar expeditions. The distinctive flavors in this recipe are pickled beets and capers, which are bold and present enough to be interesting but without overpowering the overall meal. It’s commonly eaten for lunch.
Sjömansbiff – This Swedish “sailor’s beef stew” is a hearty dish made with beef, onions, and potatoes that have nearly melted into themselves. Served with some punchy condiments like these pickled beets and whole-grain mustard, it’s a great mix of flavors and colors, and perfect for winter.
Swedish Meatballs – And then there are Swedish meatballs, that ultimate in Scandinavian comfort food. While many associate these with lingonberry preserves on the side, pickled beets would similarly provide a bold color and punch of flavor to cut through the richness of the meatballs.
Rinse beets thoroughly. Arrange snugly in a shallow baking dish and pour a little water into it so it pools in the pan. Cover tightly with foil, then roast until the beets are cooked through, about 40 minutes for medium-sized beets. Let sit until cool enough to touch, then rub off the skins and cut into quarter-inch slices. Place in a quart-sized jar.
While the beets are roasting, place vinegar in a medium-sized pot along with bay leaf salt, juniper berries, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves. Pour over the beets. Let cool, the refrigerate overnight before serving.