Beetroot relish is a food that can be used as a condiment, a side dish or as part of a larger dish. It can be prepared in a number of ways but generally involves chopping or grating beetroots and then cooking them with sugar and vinegar. The resulting beetroot relish can be served soon after being made, or it can be chilled or preserved in sterile jars for use later. In some instances, the beets can be placed in a jar and fermented to make a much more pungent relish. The beets sometimes are combined with other ingredients and spices such as onions, apples, mustard seeds or cloves, depending on the desired taste of the final relish.
There are a variety of textures that a beetroot relish can have, depending on how the beets are initially prepared and how the relish is cooked and stored. For a very rustic texture with some tooth, the beetroot can be coarsely chopped into bite-size pieces. A finer, smoother relish that is more like a condiment can be made by running the beetroot through a food processor or by finely dicing it. Grating beetroot will produce strings of the red flesh that can create a slightly crisp texture, especially when served soon after cooking.
The two basic ingredients used to make beetroot relish — aside from beetroot, of course — are sugar and vinegar. These can be any type, from brown sugar and rice wine vinegar to balsamic vinegar and beet sugar. The combination creates a sweet and sour taste that complements the flavor of the beetroot while lending itself to preservation and canning.
Other vegetables or fruits are sometimes added to the relish during cooking to help create a different texture, to enhance the taste or to add nutrients. Apples are a popular option, because they can add some crunch to the relish and provide subtle sweetness. Onions accent the savory taste of the dish, while cauliflower can both mellow the flavor of the vinegar and retain some texture after cooking.
In some cases, beetroot relish also can have spices added. Salt and pepper are common additions, especially if the relish is going to be canned. Mustard seeds give a subtle flavor to the relish, especially in an Indian preparation to with turmeric also is added. Other spices that can accent the taste of the beetroot include cloves, star anise and cinnamon.
Actually preparing the relish involves placing all the desired ingredients in a pot, sometimes with additional water, and boiling everything until the flavors have come together and the beets have cooked. The finished beetroot relish can be served at room temperature, chilled before use or presented steaming hot. Many times, the relish is placed in a sterile jar so it can be preserved for use later, although it also can be refrigerated for some time. One version of the relish involves adding all the ingredients to a jar and allowing them to ferment naturally over time, creating a very soft relish with an earthy taste from the fermentation process.