Ever since I read the story of the farmer who had a giant turnip growing in his vegetable patch, I knew that turnips were special. As a child, I didn’t really understand why.  With time, I grew, and my relationship with food changed. All of a sudden there was room for turnips and I finally understood them.

With the hue of a beetroot and the tang of a radish the turnip has burrowed its way into the Middle Eastern kitchen. We welcomed it with open arms— stuffing it, pickling it and even giving it a star role in soups and stews. My mother went a step further and dedicated an entire section of her vegetable patch to turnips. As a result we found new ways to eat turnips; one innovation was a crisp salad my mother made from turnip leaves (turnip greens) topped with turnip root shavings. She dressed it simply with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, in reverse order of course. The salad was satisfying in a way that shamed all other green salads.

But I digress. This post is dedicated to pickled turnips and other winter roots. Along with beets, turnips are pickled as part of our winter repertoire of savories and preserves. This recipe is a classic that is rooted in my grandmother’s kitchen notebook and one which we have continued to use, time and time again, in spite of our innovations.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 beets, boiled
  • 2 beets, fresh
  • 1kg turnips
  • ¼ head cauliflower (optional)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 1 green chili (optional)
  • 5 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 liters cold mineral water

Tools

  • Knife
  • Chopping board
  • Sieve
  • 2 large bowls
  • 1 medium sized pickling jar, sterilized

Method

  1. Boil the 3 beets until well-cooked (about 1 hour)
  2. Trim the turnips of any greenery or remains of the roots. If certain areas of the turnips are bruised, peel away the skin. Make sure to keep as much of the skin as you can on the turnips, this gives them a crunch even after they are pickled
  3. Slice the turnips into semi-circles (about ½ cm thick), or into large cubes (approx 1cm by 1 cm)
  4. Place the turnips in the sieve and sprinkle 2 tbsp of salt on them. Toss them to make sure the salt has coated all of them.
  5. Place the sieve with the turnips on top of a bowl, and let the water drain. I usually add a plate to weigh the turnips down and to allow the water to drain properly. Let stand for about 2 – 3 hours
  6. Peel the beets and cut them in the same way you cut the turnips
  7. Slice the garlic cloves in half (lengthwise)
  8. Peel the cooked beets and cut them (see steps 3 and 4)
  9. In a bowl pour 2 liters of water and add the salt, stirring with a spoon until all the salt has dissolved
  10. Once the turnips have drained their water, discard it
  11. Place the turnips, beets, cauliflower, garlic, rosemary and chili in the jar, layering them as you go along
  12. Fill the jar with the salted water making sure it just covers the vegetables
  13. Pour 2 tbsp of vinegar concentrate (acetic acid) on top and seal the jar for two weeks