Monday, December 20, 2010

Turnip and Beet Pickles - Shalgham wa Shwandar

Just thinking of these pickles makes my mouth water.  I ran out of these pickles a few weeks ago and have been reminding myself to make MORE.  These pickles are crunchy, sour and tangy; they add an unbelievable depth to any salad or sandwich.  It will perk up your mundane Turkey sandwich or liven up a boring salad.  I call these my comfort pickles... OK don't go there, but when I've had a bad day or I am PMSing these are the first pickles I reach for.  When I'm in a hurry and need a snack, I open the fridge, stab a few of these pickles with a fork and off I go.  There is usually a few drops of pink vinegar juice at the bottom of the fridge from these snacks, but a girls got to live a little.

It amazes me that a humble vegetable like turnips or beets can transform into such beautiful pickles.  Beets and turnips are a wintertime vegetable so take advantage of their season.  Growing up, my father would buy a bushel of turnips and a kilo of beets so that we could stock up on this winter treat.  When dad returned from the market, guess who got to wash and clean every turnip and beet?  Yes, you guessed it.  On the back porch we would set up a large plastic basin, filled it with water and then toss in a couple of arm loads of veggies.  The first wash was to remove the mud, the second wash was to scrub and scrape away blemishes or brown areas.  I remember my hands would be frozen during this entire process, but for some reason I didn't care.  I knew it was completely worth it...I should have known I would grow up to be a foodie.

The beets will give the turnips such a beautiful pinkish hue.  I remember watching my mom pour the brine into the jar and watching the crimson red, turn the white turnips a vibrant shade of pink.  Once she sealed the jars we were allowed to flip the jars over and watch the color fill the jar.  The following is the quick method of making these pickles:

Pink Pickled Turnips - Turshi Shalgham wa Shwandar

2 pounds small turnips, halved and then sliced
4-6 garlic cloves
2 small beets
3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
4 tablespoons of pickling salt

Start by washing the vegetables very well.  If you've purchased your turnips from the farmers market (and you should) you will need to rinse them off first, then scrub.

Scrub and scrape away blemishes or brown areas.  Do not peel, if the turnips are small, just cut across.  Note:  Some recipes call for peeling the turnips, but I find that the peel adds crunch.

Wash and peel the beets as the outer peel is tough.  I prefer to peel the beets under running water to prevent my hands from staining.  Of course, you can always use gloves. Peel and half the garlic cloves.

When all the veggies are ready, then it's time to layer the pickles.  In a large jar, place a couple of garlic and beet slices.  Pack in the turnips.  I top them off with another couple of slices of beets.  

Continue until you fill all your jars.

Combine the vinegar, water and stir in the salt until it dissolves.  Pour the liquid over the turnips, and cover the jars tightly with a nonreactive cap.  Close jars, and turn them upside down 2-3 times to allow the color to distribute evenly.  Let it stand at room temperature.  Let sit at room temperature in a dark place for 3-5 days. I suggest tasting them after 2 days, to experience how the flavor develops.  From time to time turn jars upside down to allow the color to distribute evenly.

These pickles keep very well for 2 weeks unrefrigerated and will last much longer if kept in the refrigerator.

An hour later!  see how quickly they transform.

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