On the feast day of summer’s end* (Halloween)

I think I found it, Mama

We tried to find something scary to show you in the garden.  As is common throughout history, when a new culture bangs in to an existing one, the conquered people’s holidays or rites are usually the most ripe for transformation by the new guys. Christianity supplanted a pagan festival with its own, All Saints, on 1 November,  and Halloween is merely the day before (the eve of All Hallows).  The old Celtic holiday, *Samhain, or summer’s end, was a day spent in reflection and stocking up at the end of autumn/beginning of winter.  It also was a period of time for the real world to touch the unreal, so you’re to keep your eye out for the supernatural.  I guess I am glad we kept that part of it; the kid does like to dress up and scare people.

But we like these harvest-based holidays around our house; they seem much more real than something arbitrary.  And personally, I like parties, especially when they reward all my hard gardening work.


Voila!  “You know, I think that thing is bigger than you were when you were born,” I told her.  She paused, and stared.  “You have GOT to be kidding me,” she said, looking over her glasses.

So behold!  The 7 lb, 5 oz cylindra beet.  This nearly filled a two gallon crock once shredded.  Fermented beets are super delicious…and it’s a fair way to stock up for winter.  Every year we get at least one or two monsters, but this year’s model has set the bar pretty high, eh?

I do like the sense of community on this holiday…even if we don’t have threshing or haying festivals any longer, or we don’t gather around the big kettle to process apple butter, I will think of all these joint events as I chase my daughter down the dark streets in town as she goes begging for sweets.  Why not.  It’s the new culture, after all.

13 responses to “On the feast day of summer’s end* (Halloween)

  1. Wow!!! That thing is huge. So these fermented beets, how do you do this? Is it like sauerkraut where you need beets and salt only? I’d like to give it a try.

    Please supply some details on how to do it.

  2. Dang, that’s some beet you have there. if I could grow them that big I would only need to grown 1/4 as many.:) Still haven’t tried fermented beets but hope to soon.

  3. Ooh, that’s a good idea to use up some overgrown beets in the hoop. I put off picking them (’cause there’s still more to use up in the fridge, sigh) and now they are getting big–though not THAT big!!

    I never thought of shredding them! I wonder if they would stain my crock, ooh the vanity of a having a pretty pickling container!

    • Shredding them is the easiest. salad. EVER. Toss with balsamic, throw on some feta and you’re good to go and eat! So shredding’s not just for pickling. And I don’t think it’ll stain unless it’s unglazed. My hands, for example, aren’t red today. (Not that I care. Just saying.)

  4. Could you teach us how to make fermented beets ?

  5. Your garden wonders never cease to amaze me!

  6. Has anyone said, “Well, don’t that beet all”? There, I’ve just done it, to spare subsequent commenters the embarrassment. You’re welcome.


  7. Wow, that’s encouraging. I have a few like that one hanging around in the garden. They got hidden under other stuff and got ignored. If you say a beet that big and fibrous is good fermented, I’m going to believe you. I’d considered pulling the monsters and cooking them a bit for the chickens. I may try kick-starting the ferment with a little raw milk whey I have tucked away in the chest freezer. Have you played around with any seasonings other than caraway? I have so many that I could make a few different batches and compare flavors…

    • My experience with them, Kate, is they’re not that pithy. Of the monsters I have known, some have been Detroit Dark Reds and others have been the Cylindra…in other words they’re not fibrous mangel or sugar beets that normally get up to that size. I have typically baked a monster next to the thanksgiving turkey because, well, it’s funny. As long as you stick a few holes in the skin and bake it long enough they’re just like regular baked beets. But as far as fermenting them goes, it doesn’t take long, so you won’t have to goose the recipe with the addition of whey or any other lactic products. They have a tendency if anything of running to alcohol than what happens to a stinky old pile of cabbage…let’s just say I did this monster last weekend and now it’s done, as of Friday, and in the fridge awaiting its final destination. I think the addition of onions would be welcome (but then again I tend to run to savory). But shredding is best for quick action (more surface area). They’ll go gooey which always horrifies my daughter (red/purple blood) but you can add more water/salt to store them. HTH.

  8. So, all, hope the tips help. Joao, follow that link I gave to Fritz up at the top of the comments: I did a post on simple fermentation. Realize though that this isn’t a vinegar pickle (though that’s tasty too) just a lacto-ferment.

    And I realize you either love or you hate beets, kind of like cilantro or blue cheese or a bunch of other things. I am in the “love” camp obviously, and Tom Robbins wrote a whole book about the smell of a beet (Jitterbug Perfume) and surprisingly that was the only book of his I could tolerate…must’ve been the subject matter.

  9. Pickled beets are one of life’s great peasant pleasures, for sure. But it’s not the size, it’s what you do with them that matters.

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