The beetroot has grown pretty well as usual this year. There isn’t a single crop that I grow without some sort of pest or disease to challenge it (or me) along the way, but some are definitely easier than others, needing little attention, and beetroot is one of those. It always germinates okay, grows whether it’s cold and damp or hot and dry, and apart from needing a little thinning in late spring/early summer, it looks after itself. Some grow big, some stay quite small, but that’s okay with me.
The leaves sometimes get a bit nibbled and then rusty towards the end of summer, and the bulbs also get eaten slightly, but whatever it is that attacks them only ever gets as far as a small hole in the side and then gives up. They don’t burrow all the way in and eat the entire build from the inside out like the eelworms in potatoes. So it’s quite easy to chop these holey sections off when trimming and peeling them. And less than perfect veg is always fine for chutney and relish making, nobody will ever know.
I came across a recipe in Alys Fowlers book Abundance (which I can highly recommend) for beetroot marmalade, and decided to adapt it ever so slightly to make this, which I’m controversially calling a relish. To be honest I don’t really get the difference between a pickle, chutney, relish or marmalade. The definition of marmalade seems to universally be a preserve made with the juice and peel of citrus fruit, so where does that leave caramelised onion marmalade? I think (personal opinion alert) it can be anything sweet made with slithers of fruit, veg or peel, suspended in a syrupy juice. Relish perhaps suggests something more savoury, whereas this is sweet, although you eat it with savoury dishes! Confused? Me too.
Anyway, call it what you like, it tastes lovely with a chunk of tangy cheese or cold meat. Anywhere you might use onion marmalade in fact, or cranberry relish, which lets face it, is really a jam! I’ll say no more.
- 1kg beetroot (trimmed and peeled)
- 100ml balsamic vinegar
- sea salt, to taste
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 2 large red onions, or a handful of smaller ones
- 50g light brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- 400ml red wine vinegar
- 100g dried cranberries, or feel free to use fresh.
- Preheat the oven to 160ºc. Cut the beetroot and the red onions into quarters and place in a roasting tin with a good dowsing of the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle over some sea salt and the orange zest. Mix everything together and roast for 40 mins, or until you can pierce the beetroot with a knife. Set aside to cool – you can do this one evening and leave them overnight to make up the relish the next day.
- Grate the beetroot into a bowl, and set aside.
- Take out the onions and roughly chop them. Put them into a large pan with any balsamic juices from the pan, and the brown sugar and set over a low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pan (including the beetroot) and cook on a gentle simmer for 30 mins until the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. It might take a bit longer. Stir from time to time to avoid anything sticking.
- You know when the relish is ready when you draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan and it stays clear for a few seconds before the syrupy juices fill back in. If there are no juices you may have overcooked it, in which case, add a little more vinegar and sugar and cook briefly.
- Spoon the relish into warm sterilised jars – I do this by washing the jars in hot water and then placing them into a cool oven to dry. Or you can just run them through a dishwasher.
- Place the lids on and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.