Now that summer has officially arrived, I need to catch up on my spring recipes. As promised, here is our other favorite (and fermented) turnip recipe, which comes to you from Germany via Tennessee, where the super-genius master-fermenter Sandor Katz (aka Sandorkraut) lives. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Wild Fermentation, or The Art of Fermentation, it’s well worth the bus ride to Kramerbooks. What other cookbook do you know with chapters titled “cultural rehabilitation,” “cultural theory,” “cultural homogenization,” and “cultural manipulation”? Seriously, read it.
Like sauerkraut, sauerruben is a macrobiotic miracle by which a brassica is transformed into a tangy garnish for meats and sandwiches, delicious enough to be eaten alone (just ask Alison). Sauerruben depends on a fermentation process involving a succession of several different microbial species, including coliform, leuconostoc, and lactobacillus; this gives it its sour taste and digestive benefits. Fermentation is easy; one of the reasons Katz’s style has such wide appeal is because he approaches cooking as an art with ample room for creativity and no such thing as a mistake. The other reason is probably because he makes such a clean and compelling case for the health benefits and cancer-fighting properties of fermented foods.
In the true no-wrong-way spirit, about a month ago we sat down after a farm work day with the farm crew plus Darius and Diana and started grating turnips and carrots, without much heed to proportions (except those of salt, which require some estimating). A month later, it’s perfectly aged and ready to be slathered on top of some Timbercreek chorizo.
Turnips (we probably had 10-15 lbs of turnips, and with the other ingredients this yielded 1.5 gallons of kraut), grated
Apples, diced into small cubes
Onions, diced into small cubes
6-9 T sea salt (non-iodized) – proportion is roughly 3 T salt to 5 lbs turnips
Caraway seeds and dill to taste
While you’re grating and chopping, toss ingredients into a big bowl as ready. Be sure to sprinkle salt on the grated turnips as you’re layering them in. The process will work with more or less salt, so salt to taste, making sure that it’s salty but not too much so. Mix all ingredients together and pack tightly into a crock or a bunch of wide mouth mason jars. Do this by packing a bit at a time and pressing it down hard using your clean hand or some sort of kitchen tool or smaller jar or glass. This packs the kraut tightly and helps to force the water out of the turnips and other veggies and fruits. Cover the kraut with something that fits snugly inside the container, like a plate (if using a crock) or smaller jar (if using mason jar), and place a clean weight on the cover. Then cover the whole thing with a towel or cloth. The purpose of the cover and weight is to keep it all clean and submerged under the brine as it rises.
On the first day, press down on the weight to force water out of the turnips as frequently as you think of it in order to make the brine rise above the top of the kraut. Leave the kraut to ferment, checking it daily to skim off any ‘bloom’ (aka scum) and clean the cover and weight. If the brine dips below the top of the kraut, add more in a 1 T salt to 1 c water ratio. Start enjoying it after a week or beyond. It gets stronger and tangier as it continues to ferment. Move it to the fridge when you most enjoy the taste to slow the fermentation process and enjoy it chilled.
As with all ferments, the power comes from life, so don’t kill your sauerruben by heating it past the pasteurization temperature (such as in a water bath to can it).
Any questions, read you some Sandor Katz.