Old-fashioned Beet Relish Recipe

beet relish

I’m always on the outlook for salads and relishes that use seasonal ingredients. When browsing through the January, 1916 issue of Good Housekeeping, I came across an intriguing recipe for Beet Relish. Of course, I had to try it.

The Beet Relish contains chopped beets and cabbage in a tangy vinegar dressing that has a fun horseradish kick. This recipe makes an absolutely beautiful, slightly flashy, sweet- sour side dish.

Beet Relish

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1  cups sugar

1 cups vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoons celery seed

2 cups cooked beets, chopped

1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped

1/8 cup to 1/2 cup horseradish, grated

Combine sugar, vinegar, salt, dry mustard, and celery seed in a bowl. Add chopped beets and chopped cabbage; stir to combine. Add horseradish to taste. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Here is the original recipe:

Good Housekeeping (January, 1913)
Good Housekeeping (January, 1913)

I halved the recipe when I made it. I also used much less horseradish than called for in the original recipe. A little horseradish adds a nice peppery flavor to this dish–but too much can easily overwhelm the other flavors.

69 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Beet Relish Recipe

  1. You are amazing with your finds. I like beets, but I’m thinking I could pass on this recipe. I’m chuckling over the last comment in the recipe.

    1. I was tempted to try to figure out what “indefinitely” meant–but my husband and I ate all the beet relish in less than a week. 🙂

  2. Looks fantastic! I love the idea for your blog. I’m really into history, and I can’t imagine a better way to experience history firsthand than to prepare the foods that our ancestors actually enjoyed and fueled their bodies with. Very neat 😀

  3. Such an interesting recipe. I love the “This will keep indefinitely”! 🙂
    I think you were right to cut down the horseradish. 1 cup seems way too much.
    However, I think the recipe calls for the mixture to stand at room temperature for the first 24 hours, not in the fridge. This way the cabbage softens a bit and absorbs the flavors more easily.

    1. You may be right that it shouldn’t be put in the refrigerator for the first 24 hrs. These old recipe leave so much space for different interpretations.

        1. Today, for most fruits and vegetables, it seems like just a few varieties are ubiquitous. A hundred years ago, I think that there was a lot of interest in the different characteristics of different varieties.

  4. I wonder if it called for more horseradish,for they would have used it in a sandwich or over a meat when baking? It probably would keep very well in a cellar in NY. I know around here one would can it. I have canned many a jar of pickled beets, but never a beet relish.

    1. That’s an interesting idea. You may be right that they used it in a sandwich or on meat. A small amount of Beet Relish made with lots of horseradish on a piece of meat might be really nice. I also thought that if I wanted to keep it “indefinitely” that I would can it.

    1. I wondered the same thing. I can picture the mid-20th century plastic-encased food choppers that had a spring loaded handle–but I know that plastic wasn’t available a hundred years ago so it had to have been something different.

  5. That sounds good: a sort of brightly coloured cole slaw. When I make it, I too shall pass on the ambitious quantities of horseradish. Definitely worth a go. Thanks.

  6. Take out the horseradish and add finely chopped celery, onion, bell pepper and carrot to the cabbage, and you have one of my favorite summer salads. My dressing called for mustard seed and celery seed, but it’s the same proportion of vinegar and sugar. The reason I like it so is that it does hold in the refrigerator nicely for a week to ten days, and remains crisp in the process. I suspect this one would, too. It’s great in summer, as you can take it on picnics, and not risk the dangers of a mayo dressed salad.

    1. Thanks for the information. I have seen old meat grinders. Based on your description, it sounds like food choppers were very similar to them.

  7. I’m beginning to think I may have starved to death in the olden days. Too many raisins for sure – and now beets. Throw in a rhubarb or two and you’ll have the sum total of things I won’t eat.

  8. It must sound pretty good, which is saying a lot because I hate beets. And I have to agree with Jane above: raisins and rhubarb are two things I simply refuse to eat. Beets are close, although for some reason this looks good.

    1. You may want to give this one a try. The beets provide the lovely color, but the cabbage and horseradish are the predominate flavors in this dish.

    1. You’re in luck. 🙂 I’ve actually already identified a rhubarb recipe that I want to make this spring. I came across it when browsing through old magazines and thought it looked really good. I plan to make it as soon as rhubarb becomes available.

  9. Thank you for the recipe Sheryl! Beets are so healthy! I see that you used less horse radish, I wonder if I could make this without the horse radish (because I don’t like the taste).

    Bon appetite!

    ❤ carmen

    1. I think this recipe would turn out just fine if you skipped the horseradish. As you noted, I used less horseradish than called for in the original recipe, and if I made it again I’d use even less. I like a little horseradish–but think that it can overwhelm the other flavors if too much is used.

        1. If you make it, let me know how it turns out. I’d really appreciate your opinion regarding the amount of horseradish–and this dish in general.

            1. Sounds good to me. You cook like I do. A recipe is an inspiration, and then I adapt it to make it work for me. 🙂

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