Thursday, March 04, 2010

Another venture into unknown territory:

It's early March, and under the hoophouse there are a hardy bunch of turnips that have survived the long, rough winter. I say survived, but actually many of them haven't really survived—they are shriveled and spent, exhausted, some are simply whitish bags of brown mush topped by defeated crowns of ragged leaves. They have enough wherewithal left to send up a flower stalk in a few weeks, bloom, set seed, pass along their genes and die.

But under the warm spring sun, I can gather a few pounds of good, solid sound turnips. About half are the pure white Tokyo Cross variety, and the other half are Purple Tops. So:

Turnips (3-½ pounds cleaned and peeled)
1-½ Tbsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp whey

I shredded the turnips, and mixed them with the salt, squeezing and wringing them until the fine grains of salt dissolved and the weeping juice was thoroughly distributed through the shreds. I added the whey (on a whim, based on our experience with some mind-boggling gingered carrots). This is a lactic acid fermentation, which is a big difference from a yeast-based fermentation. I know lots about the affairs of yeast—pretty much nothing about lactic acid fermentation except what I vaguely remember from my mother making kraut decades ago.

Now the mixture sits in a stoneware crock, protected from the air with a small china plate and weighted down by a quart mason jar full of water. By tomorrow I suspect it will be obviously alive, and in a couple of days I imagine we will smell it before we ever see it. Within a week or two we should have bona fide turnip kraut (actually, I suppose it should be called sauerturnip, but whatever...) and it will increase in tartness and pungency for up to six weeks, at which point we could can what might be left.

Stay tuned.

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