Cut the tops off the beets, wash and cook them, I usually do this in a canner depending on the amount of beets I have. Put enough water in pot to cover the beets. They are are done when poked with a fork and are tender. Drain beets reserving the water they were cooked in. Let the beets cool enough to handle them. I put them in cold water to hurry the process. Once cooled enough you can peel them by hand as the peel slides off easily. Messy job but so worth it!
Wash and rinse your jars. Cut up peeled beets in pieces to fit your jars and fill each jar. Leave small beets whole.
Place a bay leaf on top of the beets in jar. Then cover with hot brine and seal.
2 cups beet water, strained (this is the water saved from cooking the beets)
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
Cook this together until it boils and the sugar is dissolved, stirring often.
If you are doing a large amount of beets you may have to cook more of this brine, I start with this amount and if I need more I cook it as I go along.
Put jars in canner with enough hot water to cover the jars, and cover with lid. Place canner on the stove, turn element on high and when it comes to boil turn down the heat.. the water should still be bubbling and process for 20 min.
I know there are recipes for pickled beets with more spices but this is the recipe my Mom always made and it is my favorite. I love to eat these beets with pasta dishes but they can be enjoyed with any meal. I make sure that my pantry is always stocked!
PS...if you like beet jelly, save the extra strained beet water for that. My Mom sometimes made this jelly as not much was wasted in those days. It is actually quite tasty on toast.