Harvard beets are probably named for their deep crimson color. Crimson was officially designated Harvard University's color in 1910. These classic Harvard beets are sliced and cooked in a sweet and sour sauce made with vinegar and sugar.
These instructions start with fresh beets you will first cook, peel and slice. As a shortcut, you can use canned drained beets (not pickled) and pick up the recipe at that point. If you use that shortcut, this recipe will only take about 20 minutes to prepare.
Beets can be found as a fresh crop at farmers markets from early summer through late fall. They are a superfood, packed with vitamins as well as flavor. Look for beets that are firm and that have healthy-looking greens attached. The greens are delicious when cooked, so don't simply trim them and throw them away.
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 cups cooked sliced beets
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
- To make with fresh beets, wash the beets and leave an inch of stem and root end on them. Put the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water.
- Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and boil for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the beets are tender.
- Drain the beets and let them cool, then slip the skins off. Slice or dice the beets to your desired shape and size.
- Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Whisk in the vinegar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened.
- Add the sliced cooked beets and the salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir the butter into the beets and serve them hot.
Harvard beets go well as a side dish with steak, pork chops, or chicken. They lend color to the plate as well as the great flavor. But another use for them is to chill them and serve them with salad. That's a way to get a couple of meals out of leftovers.
You can also freeze Harvard beets to enjoy later. If you have a bumper crop of beets from your garden or couldn't resist a big bunch from the farmers market, go ahead and make a few batches and freeze them.