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Recipe: Sauerreuben (Fermented Turnips)

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This is part of a series of multimedia stories curated through a collaboration between Earthworks Farm and KCETLink. Watch a segment from KCET's "SoCal Connected" and visit the project hub for more information.

We are all familiar with sauerkraut, the fermented cabbage that is a mainstay of many European cuisines. Most of us are less familiar with sauerreuben, a similar fermentation of turnips. This is unfortunate, as fermented turnips are a delicious and nutritious addition to many dishes. Like curtido, sauerruben can be eaten as a side dish (a pickled salad) or as a condiment for a wide variety of recipes.

Sauerreuben is generally served raw. Its sour, tangy, tart flavor complements many rich, hearty, and spicy Latin American dishes; it's also great as banchan, a Korean-style side dish. The crunch of the fermented turnips also provides a great textural contrast in many recipes.

Anywhere you might consider using coleslaw, you can use sauerreuben. It goes great as a substitute for sauerkraut on hot dogs and Reuben sandwiches.

Sauerreuben (Fermented Turnips)

For the best sauerreuben, use fresh, firm turnips. Any variety may be used (white, yellow, Swedish, rutabaga), but late variety cabbages make superior curtido. For best results, grate turnips and start sauerreuben between 24 and 48 hours after harvest.

This is a 3% brine recipe.

1 pound turnips, ends trimmed, peeled and shredded
½ pound carrot, peeled and shredded
½ ounce canning, pickling, kosher, or sea salt (this is 1 ounce of salt for every 3 pounds of vegetable)
Spice variety (optional)


1 ounce of salt per quart of water

Grate or slice turnips and carrots to a thickness of a quarter. Place turnips and carrots in a mixing bowl and toss with all ingredients, salt and spices, using clean hands. Pack firmly into your clean fermentation jar until salt draws juices from the turnips and carrots.

Be sure the jar is filled to about 1 ½ inches of the top but no higher. Place a ziplock bag filled with brine into you jar and press down. This weight is to force water out of the turnips and carrots and then keep them submerged under the brine. If juice does not cover turnip and carrot mixture, add brine.

Seal your jar, but allow the lid to be loose to allow the escape of fermentation gases.

Store at 70° to 80°F while fermenting at temperatures between 70° and 80°F. The sauerreuben will be finished in about 5 days; at 60° to 65°F, fermentation may take 7 to 9 days. You may allow your sauerreuben to ferment even longer.

Caution: If the sauerreuben becomes soft, slimy, or develops a disagreeable odor, discard. Fully fermented sauerreuben may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months.

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