One of the best benefits of knowing multiple ways to preserve food is the ability to extend the life of fruit and veggies with minimal effort and time. We found ourselves with a few extra rutabagas which were starting to get a little soft and knew that we wouldn’t be cooking for a few days.
A few years ago my Father mentioned that he’d been served fermented turnips while deer hunting with some friends. They had been fermenting it for years (different batches) and fermented it in cubes. He said it was remarkably good. For the purpose of this post, the term ‘rutabaga’ and ‘turnip’ will be used interchangeably – the recipe will work for either and produce similar results.
I opted to shred my rutabagas instead of cubing them. Shredding has a few benefits:
- All the pieces are essentially the same thickness.
- It’s fast (then again, so is a knife).
- The resulting product is thin which makes for a faster ferment.
- The thinner product is easier to sample in small bits when experimenting.
The results are awesome. The turnip has lost its intense bitterness and replaced it by enhancing its natural sweetness. Of course there’s also the sour-umami taste of a ferment so this has created a sweet-and-sour taste that’s a really awesome contrast to most krauts. The texture is appropriately soft – you can easily imagine that the rutabaga was cooked instead of fermented.
This fermented on the counter for about a week. I used a 1-liter (quart) wide-mouthed mason jar, placed my ingredients inside and placed a 125 ml (half-cup) mason jar on top in order to keep everything submerged (this is desirable for fermentation). I placed a lid on the jar loosely (which is important as fermentation will create gas that could cause a jar to break under extreme conditions) and opened it a few times a day to release any accumulating pressure. Generally most of the pressure escaped through the loose seal but there were a few times when I opened the jar that liquid shot out (like opening a pop bottle that had been shaken) so do this over a sink. If you don’t want to mess with the lid, you could easily use an airlock like these.
You can easily scale this recipe up or down. This was based on what I had available.
- 3 medium-small turnips or rutabagas.
- De-chlorinated water (this is necessary for fermentation. We let our water sit on the counter for a few hours).
- 15 grams of salt (weighing is the most accurate and I highly advise it – if you can’t weigh it, you can guess the amount by adding enough salt to make it taste too salty to eat but should still be able to consume a small amount without needing water immediately. You can use this amount of salt for every quart of content (turnip plus liquid)
- Peel the turnip.
- Grate the turnip.
- Toss the turnip with the salt in a large bowl.
- Use your hands to squeeze clumps of turnip tightly. This will help damage the cell walls and help the salt start to pull the liquids out of the flesh of the vegetable.
- Cover with a towel and allow the turnip to sit for a few hours or overnight.
- Add the turnip (and any liquid that appears) into a wide-mouthed mason jar. Cover with the smaller mason jar as described above and add additional water if required (it doesn’t need to be filled to the neck – just enough to make sure all of the turnip is covered).
- Secure the jar per above.
- Check it out as it ferments. It will start to bubble after a day or two and that’s a sign that things are going well!
- Taste the kraut starting on day 2. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen it should take 2-8 days. When it tastes sour and you’re happy – you’re done!
- Store in the fridge. The cold will ease the fermentation and keep the product for a long time (if it lasts that long).
Serve as a condiment or a salad with dinner (or on a sandwich – including grilled cheeses!)