While Robert and I were stocking up on sausage and smoked mackerel at International Meat, a Russian market in Portland, a group of jars in the pickle section caught my eye. Though among them the jars bore several different labels, they were all filled with shredded beets, preserved with vinegar and seasoned mainly with horseradish. I’d never made such a relish before, or even tasted it.
So I went home and did a little research. Called tsvikly, the relish comes from Ukraine, I found out. It’s easy to make. Here is the recipe I settled on:
Ukrainian Beet Relish
1 pound beets, with their rootlets and about 2 inches of their tops
1 ounce peeled horseradish
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoons black peppercorns
½ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
In a saucepan, cover the beets with water. Boil them until they are tender throughout. Drain them, and let them cool briefly.
Trim the beets, and rub off their skins. Grate the beets coarsely, using the large holes of a box grater. Grate the horseradish fine; you should have about ¼ cup. Mix the grated beets and horseradish together in a bowl, and then pack the mixture into a pint jar.
In a mortar, crush the dill, coriander, and peppercorns. Combine the spices in a small saucepan with the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan, and simmer the liquid for 5 minutes.
Set a tea strainer over the jar of beets, and pour the vinegar mixture through the strainer. The liquid should barely cover the solids. Cap the jar, and let it cool to room temperature. Then put it into the refrigerator, and wait at least a day before sampling the relish.
Makes 1 pint
The horseradish in this relish tastes strong at first, but it mellows after a few days. Otherwise the relish is fairly mild in flavor, though you could of course add more sugar, salt, or spices, or incorporate the spices instead of straining them out. You might also substitute caraway or cumin for the dill.
Tsvikly, I’ve read, is traditionally served at Easter with ham or pork. I think it’s delicious with smoked mackerel, the product that draws me again and again to International Meat.