Pickled turnips

July 13, 2010

One of the great questions about most historical food cultures is how did they keep things. As I have written before, the amount of salt that one could expect to find up here was possible rather limited and in the case one got hold of it quite costly.

Though drying is a rather obvious method up here with the stockfish and all, I am a bit doubtful if that would be the most preferred method when it comes to certain vegetables that would keep quite well by just storing them cool. However, while certain fruits, berries and legumes would not lose much of their main characteristics by being dried, properties like vitamin C would not be as easily recovered from the dried vegetables. Though far more bulky I would still claim that pickling vegetables in lactic acid would have been an important way of keeping them from going bad.

However, the surviving evidence of such a pickling method is scarce at best. I seem to recall some instances in which remains of lactic acid had been found in clay vessels, but really have to recheck that source. It is not often mentioned in medieval sources though I do have a few 17th century recipes of sourkraut and similar dishes. Still I find this kind of pickling worth considering and if it can be done without salt even more so.

In this first attempt I tried to pickle a handful of turnips, or some modern breed thereof. They were cut into slices and spread out in a wooden pail. Among the slices I spread some juniperberries and carawayseeds, which is still common to add to the sourkraut. I added just a bit of seasalt and almost 100 ml of whey.

I tried to press it all down using my wooden club, though it is difficult to say how much it was pressed together. In order to keep it all anaerobic I added some water and put a lid on top that was pressed down with a rock. To make sure that the lid did not stick it was a fair bit to small in comparison to the pail, so I noticed that some pieces of turnip tried for a hasty escape. Knowing that it might spoil the whole batch I made a makeshift lattice that was put in under the lid with hopes that it might do the trick. I am fully aware though that I might have to return in a few days and check for mould and throw away those pieces that managed to escape. To start with the bucket was placed not to far from the fire, but I should possibly move it away in a day or two. Best would perhaps be to put it on top of the loft, if I can reach that.

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