Today I am running a Fermentation Evening for eight people from my local Transition Towns group, and the event is going to be covered by the Guardian newspaper as part of their Get Together column in the Saturday Food Supplement. The timing is perfect. Two weeks ago I had staying with me Maria Tarantino and Sofia Corte Real from Brussels, who were leading the Fermentation Workshops at the Weston A Price Conference in Surrey, UK.
If you do a fermentation workshop, and they were doing three, there is heaps of preparation work to do well ahead to time. They needed a base and so they stayed with me. We had a great time scouring London for an organic fish sauce and black turnips! My local health food store didn’t even have ordinary turnips, saying that there was no demand for them! Finally we squeezed into my tiny car, without an inch to spare, and made it to Sandown Racecourse ahead of everyone else. With loads of vegetables to scrub, we set to. Finally, they put all the vegetables in what they thought was the cooler. Imagine the panic on turning up the next day, a couple of hours before 45 people were coming for a day workshop, to find that they were nearly all frozen! New supplies were found, but neither London nor the local Esher shops could provide us with Black Turnips. Ordinary had to do.
The workshop was brilliant, using the brine method with a medley of different vegetables, and that evening we all went out to the Daylesford Farm Restaurant. At the end of the meal Maria came rushing up to my table brandishing a fistful of BLACK TURNIPS! The restaurant was using them for decorative purposes at the front, in large wicker baskets. We had looked in the restaurant the evening before, and had missed seeing them! I tried to buy them to bring home, but instead the restaurant gave them to me. See below what they look like when fermented. I think they look wonderful, but even better is the taste. Never look down on a turnip again, folks. Ferment them and you are in for a treat!
Turnips are a member of the radish family and because of that have an interesting peppery flavour, which is mellowed with fermentation. They are crunchy and delicious. I came across grated fermented turnips first in Slovenian markets, sold out of huge buckets and put into plastic bags for taking home.
The fermentation water is sold separately in bottles for a couple of euros, for added digestive health. So don’t throw away the extra liquid. Drink it regularly, especially after a course of antibiotics! Contact A Taste of Slovenia if you want to explore this wonderful culinary heritage with a group of like minded foodies.
Here is the recipe for Fermented Black Turnips
6 medium turnips, scrubbed well and sliced 1/8 inch thick.
(If you can find them use black skinned turnips and leave unpeeled)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups water
27g of good quality sea salt
1. Make a brine by combining the water and sea salt. Set aside.
2. Put 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in a quart jar. Add the sliced turnips, packing until just below the top.
3. Immerse the turnips in the brine , making sure you release the air bubbles. Allow 1 inch of head space in jar.
Weigh the turnips down so that they stay below the brine by using a glass stone or plastic bag filled with brine.
4. Place a lid on the jar and secure tightly. Allow to ferment at room temperature (65° to 80°F) for 3 to 10 days, burping the jar to release gases for the first few days.
5. Move to cold storage when the taste is how you like it.