Although sauerruben (fermented turnip) is far less known in the US than sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), it is a delicious and very healthy alternative. It has a fairly similar taste (and pungent smell!) as well, although turnips have notes of horseradish, radish, and other flavors, which might make this ferment even more complex in flavor.
Like cabbage, turnip can be shredded using a shredding disc with a food processor, or grated by hand or with an easy device, but whenever I make this, I just go old school and matchstick cut the turnips by hand. Turnip is a regular in my winter garden, and it’s very satisfying making fermented products from your own produce. Turnips are very easy to grow and don’t require much effort at all.
I’ve had my dilly kraut recipe up for a long time, and I discuss there how you can even add already-fermented garlic dill pickles to the ferment. I have made that technique the star of the show in this turnip rendition. Besides plenty of shredded turnip, this ferment has plenty of garlic, dill, and sliced garlic dill pickles. The result is a delicious, tangy, and very pickly concoction, amazing as a hot dog topper, grilled with sausage or brats, and much more.
If you don’t have your own fermented garlic dill pickles, you should give it a try! Here is my easy how-to video. In the meantime, a great product you can find in many health food stores including Whole Foods is Bubbie’s Kosher Dill Pickles. Make sure to check the refrigerated section as this type of traditional, fermented pickle should not be stored at room temperature.
Intrigued? Then let’s do this!
Ferment vessel: Based on the following quantities, I recommend a 1L Fido jar. It can all fit in a quart jar but it’s a tight squeeze for sure.
Shelf life: Sauerruben can last for years and even often still remain reasonably crispy. Once fermented, it should be kept refrigerated to prolong shelf life, and moved to a smaller vessel as you have less of it. In this recipe, the pickle slices (which are already fermented) will soften before the turnips do.
- Knife & cutting board (or food processor with shredding disc, or toher device to julienne vegetables)
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Medium or large mixing bowl
- Fermentation weight
- Suggested: canning funnel
- Optional: kitchen gloves (when handling & squeezing the turnips)
- 1 kg turnips (2.2 lbs.), julienned, matchstick cut, or shredded
- 1.5 TBSP additive-free salt (30g salt or 2.5% of total veg weight)
- 1 bunch dill (30-35g or 8-10 fronds), chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced or run through garlic press
- 4-5 cloves garlic, quartered or sliced
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 1-2 fermented pickles (150g), sliced, chopped or diced
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Optional: 1/4 small onion, sliced
- Optional: 1/4 tsp ground coriander
1.) Wash turnips well and use a peeler either to remove the entire outer layer or just the blemish areas (e.g. dry/brown areas typical around the stem base) and rooty growth.
2.) Cut in the desired manner. Matchstick or julienne cut (as shown in photos) or shredded will give a consistency like sauerkraut. You may also shred using a shredding disc with your food processor.
3.) Prepare the other ingredients and combine with the turnip and salt in mixing bowl. (You might prefer to wait to add the pickles later, so you can squeeze liquid out of the turnips without overly mushing the pickles.) Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes to release the brine. If there is appears to be a lack of brine, vigorously massage the turnips to release sufficient liquid (it is needed to submerge everything later.)
4.) Once there is ample brine, make sure everything is mixed together well, including the pickles and seasonings. Using the (suggested) canning funnel, transfer the mix to the mason jar and press down to firmly pack the product. Pour over any residual brine and pack down with a fermentation weight (or other foodsafe alternative), ensuring that everything is submerged below the brine.
Notes on fermentation: Fido jars are self-burping but use of a glass mason jar requires either burping the ferment each day for a couple weeks (beware the pungent smell!), or using an airlock lid. After 1-3 months of room temperature fermentation and aging, it is recommended to transfer to refrigeration, where a regular lid can be used and the weight can be removed.
As time passes, you will notice the purple pigments will seep out of the turnips and dye the brine, eventually leaving everything a very light pink color.