Beets should be fresh, plump and firm. If slightly withered, they may be freshened by standing in cold water over night. But if much withered do not waste time and fuel in trying to cook them, as they will be bitter and tough with any amount of cooking. Use care in handling beets before cooking so as not to break the skins. If the skins are broken the flavor and sweetness of the beet will be lost in the water. Press with thumb and finger to find when they are tender rather than to puncture with a knife or fork.
Put to cooking in perfectly boiling water. Boil steadily until tender, when remove at once from the fire as over-cooking toughens them, throw into cold water a moment and rub off the skins. Serve plain, whole if small, or cut into quarters if large; or, slice and pour over a hot mixture of lemon juice and sugar (part water and a trifle of salt may be used), or hot cream with salt, or salt and olive oil.
Small young beets, right from the garden, will cook in from 20 m. to 1 hr. Large, old ones in winter will require 3-5 hours.
Let sliced beets stand over night in sauce 79.