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Cinnamon, and ginger, and cloves, oh my!  Spiced Harvard Beets are the ruby red slippers of root vegetables, the flavors will transport you; the color will amaze you! The origin of the name is a bit murky; some say it came from the color of the dish resembling the colors of Harvard University, others say it came from the Harwood tavern that served the dish is England, either way the popularity of the dish soared in the early 20th century, likely due to the addition of cornstarch.  Traditionally, Harvard Beets do not contain the warming spices of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  I had always found Harvard Beets to pair well with smoky proteins, for this recipe I was inspired by the idea of a pineapple and clove studded ham; and voila, Spiced Harvard Beets was born! The spiced, slightly thickened, sweet & tangy sauce clings gently to the beets, allowing the earthy sweet flavor of the beets to shine and sparkle.  This dish is sure to inspire you to tap your heels and say…there is no dish like Spiced Harvard Beets!


  • 1 1/2 pounds red beets
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger or 1 thumb size 1/4-inch-thick slice of fresh ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. butter (optional)
Main Ingredient(s): Beets


  • Place beets in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, about 30-45 minutes.
  • Drain the cooked beets, rinse with cold water.
  • Once cool, peel skins with your hands – they should slip right out.
  • Cut beets into wedges (6 to 8 wedges per beet depending on the size of the beet).
  • Combine vinegar, water, sugar, cornstarch, and all spices, in a saucepan, mix well to dissolve cornstarch prior to heating. Over medium heat, stirring occasionally, bring to soft boil. Soft boil 3-5 minutes until sauce is thickened and no longer cloudy. You are looking for a consistency that will coat the back of a spoon. If too thick add water 1 Tbsp. at a time, returning to a soft boil. Remove from heat.
  • Add beets to spiced vinegar sauce and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning. If serving warmed, add 1 Tbsp. of butter and heat. May also be enjoyed cold.
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Published On: December 6, 2022