Delicious Harvard Beets Recipe

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Glazed Beets
Harvard Beets

Harvard Beets are simply a side dish of cooked beets that have been diced or sliced and reheated in a sweet and slightly tangy sauce made primarily with sugar, vinegar, and thickener. Some refer to these beets as glazed beets. Harvard Beets may be eaten hot, lukewarm, or cold.

Where the name “Harvard Beets” came from is not clear. Some suggest that they were named for the deep beet red color of the Harvard Crimson football jersey while others posit the recipe was created by a Harvard student in the early 1900s. Another theory is that the recipe originated in an English tavern known as the Harwood tavern and the name somehow got mispronounced or translated in New England as “Harvard”. How much is fact and how much is fiction, I will leave up to the reader to decide. Wherever they originated, someone along the way created a fabulously tasty way to serve humble beets.

Fresh Beets
Beets

There are many recipes and methods for making Harvard Beets and what follows is mine. Approximately 1½ – 1¾ pounds of cooked beets will be needed for this recipe. As a gauge as to how many raw beets to buy (or dig up in the garden) to end up with approximately 1½ – 1¾ pounds cooked for the recipe, I suggest somewhere in the vicinity of 1¾ – 2 pounds of raw beets, weighed after their leaves have been removed but a short stem and roots still intact on the beets as shown in the photo above. If you end up with slightly less than that amount, there will simply be more sauce on the beets. If there are a few more ounces of beets, there should still be enough sauce to glaze them adequately.

I boil the beets for this recipe because I like to use some of that stunning purple-crimson beet water in which the beets were boiled and incorporate it into the sweet and tangy sauce. It adds such beautiful intense color and additional flavor. That said, if your preference is to cook the beets via another method (e.g., roast them), that would work, too, in which case water would be used in the sauce instead of the beet cooking water.

Once the beets have been cooked and cooled enough to handle, they are peeled and the stem and root ends removed. The beets can be either diced or sliced, whichever is your preference. If slicing the beets, I recommend using small beets so the slices are not too large for glazing with the sauce as well as for pleasing presentation.

Side dish of glazed beets
Harvard Beets

This recipe is not difficult to make. The sauce is made with both brown and white sugars with cornstarch as the thickener. Cornstarch makes such a lovely bright sauce and, along with the butter, gives the beets a silky and glistening appearance. Some fine sea salt adds flavor and I like to add about 1/8 tsp of cloves but that is an optional ingredient.

The liquid ingredients consist of apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and a bit of the water in which the beets were cooked. The sauce is cooked until it thickens to desired consistency and then some butter is added for flavor and the silky appearance and texture it provides. The cooked beets are added and stirred until they are coated with the sauce and heated to eating temperature. Because of the sweetness of this sauce, it can scorch quickly so it is important to keep stirring the mixture until it is heated and removed from the heat.

While these are tasty treats (I could eat them like candy!), the beets with their vibrant sauce tend to like to share their color with everything else on the plate. Like cranberry sauce, I recommend serving Harvard Beets in small serving dishes or ramekins on the dinner plate as that will contain them and their delectable sauce.

Glazed Beets
Harvard Beets

Harvard Beets are tasty with many meals and are a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner so you may want to keep them in mind, in particular, for those events.

Harvard Beets

Ingredients:

Apx. 1½ – 1¾ pounds cooked beets, peeled and diced or sliced (apx. 1¾ – 2 lbs raw beets weighed after leaves removed but roots and 1” – 1½“ stems left on)

1/3* cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp cloves (optional)

7 tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water in which beets were cooked
2 tbsp orange juice

3 tbsp butter, room temperature

Method:

Cut leaves off beets, leaving about 1” – 1½” of stem as well as roots on beets. Wash beets very well. Leave beets whole and place in large pot and add enough water to cook beets. Cover and bring beets to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce temperature to medium/medium-low and cook until a pare knife or fork can easily be inserted into beets. Length of actual cooking time is dependent on size of beets. Remove beets from pot and cool beets enough to handle. Reserve ¼ cup of the beet cooking water. Cut off stem and root ends and peel beets. Dice or slice beets. Set aside.

In saucepan, combine the sugars, cornstarch, sea salt, and cloves. Whisk dry ingredients well to mix.

Whisk in apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup of reserved beet cooking water, and orange juice. Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and stir with a whisk until mixture thickens to desired consistency. Stir in the butter until melted and blended. Add the beets and stir to coat with the sauce and reheat them, generally 3-5 minutes. Serve as a side dish to meal of choice.

Harvard Beets will keep, tightly covered, up to three days in the refrigerator and reheat well in the microwave. These beets also freeze very well and can be thawed at room temperature or in the refrigerator and then reheated in the microwave.

Yield: Apx. 5-6 servings
Note: For a sweeter sauce, add more brown sugar, to taste.

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Harvard Beets

Harvard Beets, in their sweet and slightly tangy sauce, are a great addition to a meal. Enjoy them diced or sliced and hot, warm, or cold.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword beets, Harvard Beets
Servings 5
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

  • Apx. 1½ - 1¾ lbs cooked beets, peeled and diced or sliced (apx. 1¾ - 2 lbs raw beets weighed after leaves removed but roots and 1” – 1½“ stems left on)
  • 1/3 cup* brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • 7 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water in which beets were cooked
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 3 tbsp butter, room temperature

Instructions

  1. Cut leaves off beets, leaving about 1” – 1½” of stem as well as roots on beets. Wash beets very well. Leave beets whole and place in large pot and add enough water to cook beets. Cover and bring beets to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce temperature to medium/medium-low and cook until a pare knife or fork can easily be inserted into beets. Length of actual cooking time is dependent on size of beets. Remove beets from pot and cool beets enough to handle. Reserve ¼ cup of the beet cooking water. Cut off stem and root ends and peel beets. Dice or slice beets. Set aside.
  2. In saucepan, combine the sugars, cornstarch, sea salt, and cloves. Whisk dry ingredients well to mix.
  3. Whisk in apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup of reserved beet cooking water, and orange juice. Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and stir with a whisk until mixture thickens to desired consistency. Stir in the butter until melted and blended. Add the beets and stir to coat with the sauce and reheat them, generally 3-5 minutes. Serve as a side dish to meal of choice.
  4. Harvard Beets will keep, tightly covered, up to three days in the refrigerator and reheat well in the microwave. These beets also freeze very well and can be thawed at room temperature or in the refrigerator and then reheated in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 5-6 servings

Note: For a sweeter sauce, add more brown sugar, to taste.

For other tasty Beet recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below.

Pickled Beets
Beet, Watermelon, and Dragon Fruit Salad
Deli-style Gluten-free Beet Muffins

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Beet Side Dish
Harvard Beets
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