The fourth way

Back when I still thought my problem with turnips was not having found the right way to cook them (as opposed to simply disliking them in general), I tried them three different ways in one night. Of course I ended up not very satisfied with any of those (because I don’t like turnips). But after trying some raw turnip that evening, I thought they might make good pickles. This, I suggested while the turnip project still had appeal, would be the fourth way to try turnips.

A fresh batch of turnip pickles (with beet for color)

Fast forward many months. A new round of turnip delivery begins. Duck and I eat the yummy greens very happily (and for all the people who find this site by googling “turnip greens” or “how to cook turnip greens” I recommend preparing them, alone or with other greens, steamed and then topped with kale sauce or sauteed “Venice” style or Asian style with ginger and garlic). But the turnips themselves sit in the fridge, unloved.

Then I remembered a favorite culinary memory. In New York, all the falafel places give you these yummy pink pickles with your food. They always seemed like radishes to me, but with a more rubbery rather than crunchy texture. Finally I asked a falafel cook what they were, and he told me they were pickled turnips. As far as I know, these pickles were my main contact with turnips before the advent of the CSA, but I completely forgot about them. The memory returned in my time of need as I stood staring at several bags of turnips nestled amidst the lettuce graveyard in my fridge.

Turnips and beets awating their vinegar bath

But what turns white turnips into pink pickles? It turns out sliced beets do, and a bunch of beets arrived fortuitously in the next box. Google led me to a recipe on the madKnews blog, and I put my turnips in to pickle before leaving on my big Midwestern adventure. (These are “refrigerator pickles” so they don’t get canned, just stuck in the fridge to sit in a vinegar solution.)

Tonight the pickles had their grand unveiling. They’d been hanging out in their vinegar baths for thirteen days, several days more than the recipe recommended, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Duck and I wanted to showcase them in their optimal setting, so we made homemade falafel to put on fresh lavash bread with heirloom tomatoes, tender red leaf lettuce, a squeeze of meyer lemon and a generous spread of Haig’s baba ganoush, a local delicacy and one of my favorite things.

We tried the pickles straight first, and then rolled them into sandwiches with all the other goodies. The first pickle-only bite was so spicy, I felt like I’d licked the maror dish at Passover (that would be a bowl of horseradish for those of you who are seder-uninitiated). And Duck made a face when he tried his that made me certain I was going to be eating two jars of turnip pickles by my lonesome. But then his fingers kept sneaking back into the jar.

“You like them!,” I exclaimed.

“I don’t know if I like them,” he replied, “but I seem to be addicted to them.” At least that’s what I think he said – his mouth was full of turnip pickle at the time.

Subsequent bites proved a little more mellow. And the little guys were absolutely phenomenal in our falafel wraps. I’m having a hard time finding words to describe their flavor. Zesty, certainly. And so yummy I was stuffing another little slice into each bite of my wrap. It looks like, after what ended up being considerably more than four tries, I have at last found a way to enjoy my turnips!

Turnip Pickles (recipe is straight from the madKnews blog)

1 lb white turnips cut into thick slices
1 small beet scrubbed and sliced
1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cups vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Place the turnips and the beet into a jar large enough to hold them – one that has a close fitting lid.

In a non-reactive pot (glass, enamel or stainless steel) combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt and heat, stirring, until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool, then pour over the turnips in the jar. Cover the jar tightly.

I store these in the refrigerator. They are ready to eat in a week.

Note: The beet is there to color the turnips, but you can eat the slices if you wish.

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12 comments on “The fourth way

  1. miche says:

    They are just gorgeous! I don’t like turnips, either. I’ve been giving them to our (French) sitter every time. And every time the newsletter says ‘radish or turnips’, I swear I’ve been on the turnip-receiving end …. until yesterday. I finally ‘won’ some radishes. Ha! I am going to pickle them next time, especially since that will give me a reason to eat falafel. :)

  2. scrumptious says:

    Thank you! Looking at the photos, I can’t even believe how bright they are, but they really were that electric color.

    Congratulations on your radish win! I hope the pickle recipe will turn your turnips around – I can only speak for myself, but Duck and I ate an entire jar of them yesterday, and this is a vegetable I pretty much won’t touch otherwise.

  3. Ms Heather says:

    Yum! I wish I could try them!! They look beautiful and delicious.

  4. scrumptious says:

    I think I was showing you pictures of them when I was in Michigan, yes? They came out so well! And so easy!

    We’ll have to make them when you are home this winter.

  5. […] * Turnip pickles, which employed beets and vinegar solution to turn my four large bunches of uneaten turnips into yummy pink, Middle Eastern pickles. Now, of course, I have 5 jars of pickles. They’re refrigerator pickles, which means they’ll get too strong if I don’t eat them soon. What am I going to do with five jars of turnip pickles? Have a pickle party? If you live in SF, let me know if you want a jar of really tasty turnip pickles. The texture of these little guys is incredible! They go amazingly well with falafel, but are also a yummy snack all on their own. […]

  6. […] (which for me means making my own stock and pickles and such). They were just my usual recipe for Middle-Eastern-style turnip pickles, only I left out the beet that usually turns them bright pink because these turnips were so lovely, […]

  7. […] Mushroom-walnut pate with Mary’s GF onion crackers Homemade turnip pickles and sweet-and-spicy zucchini pickles Assorted […]

  8. Dia says:

    lol! I love turnips (had them raw as a kid, nice & crunchy in salads) & my son-in law loves kohlrabbi – so similar! Before I had my CSA share, I bought more gold than red beets, so have a pletheral of lone beets – this sounds fun! My dau & her hubby are more inclined to like pickles, so they may like these, too.

  9. […] to give up on turnips forever, resigning them to the compost heap of life, I discovered the secret. Turnip pickles. Gorgeously flamingly pink, perfectly spicy, delicious with all kinds of foods – I love me […]

  10. […] Wednesday Homemade falafel GF pita bread (in the freezer) Baba ganoush Turnip pickles […]

  11. AF_Whigs says:

    Hey, I’m late to this party, but I’ve been making refrigerator pickles for years based on Alton Brown’s “firecrackers” recipe – which are spicy carrots. I don’t do the spicy part, because no one else in my family will eat them, but I’ve modified his recipe to be much closer to what you have above (he uses a lot more sugar, which I don’t like, so I think I use 1/4 cup, but I’ll try reducing futher based on your recipe). Also, I always pour the hot liquid over the veggies then let them cool. Wait 2 weeks and pretty much everything I’ve tried is excellent.

    So far I’ve had excellent results with:

    -carrots
    -radishes (which I don’t like raw)
    -onions and/or garlic cloves (excellent!)
    -cabbage (after salting & draining in a collander for an hour or two)

    -turnips
    -beets
    -garlic scapes
    -various peppers (hot & mild, both)

    …and a couple other roots/tubers that I wasn’t sure what they were. Not parsnips (which I love and want to try), maybe rudebegas? Not sure. I also want to try celery root and cauliflower.

    Anyway, I’ve been missing falafel stands and these pink pickles since we moved away from LA, and that’s how I found your blog, wondering what they were.

    • scrumptious says:

      Glad I could help with your pink pickle cravings!

      Your pickle experiments sound wide-ranging and fabulous. I think I’ve tried that firecrackers recipe before, too. I am super inspired to go pickle a bunch of stuff now!

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