Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Ballad of Mr. Turnip

This here’s a story about a giant turnip, the woman who destroyed him (that would be me), and his ultimate redemption (I hope).

I was looking for someone else when I found Mr. Turnip at a Minneapolis Farmer’s Market stall. I’d never seen anything like him: a giant turnip almost as big as my head. He was grotesque… yet magnificent. He only cost a dollar! How could I pass him up?

And once I got him home, well, what the hell was I going to do with him? I put him on my kitchen scale, but I did not have enough weights to measure him. I stacked up a package of gnocchi; cans of coconut milk, tomato paste, and Amy’s brand lentil vegetable soup; two bars of Ghirardelli unsweetened chocolate; a bag of Bob’s Red Mill oat bran cereal; and a stray ounce of bittersweet chocolate. Mr. Turnip weighed slightly more than all of it put together. That put him at around five pounds.

Hmm… five pounds. If Mr. Turnip were a cabbage, I could make a gallon of sauerkraut out of him. I’d read that turnips, if given the same treatment, turn into sauerruben: reputedly even better than kraut. We’d just see about that.

As I peeled him, Mr. Turnip released a sulphurous odor that stung my nose and made my eyes water. Had I made a huge mistake? Maybe I should have left him whole and gone as Zaphod Beeblebrox for Halloween. But when I cut him in half, my fears were quelled: Mr. Turnip’s heart was clean and sweet.

With a few minutes’ work, he was a mound of snowy white shreds. I tossed him with three tablespoons of canning salt and packed him into a bag.
“There you go,” I told him. “Get to work.”

I left him alone for a few days. He made plenty of brine, but I didn’t see many of the bubbles that would tell me he was fermenting. This I didn’t like: he turned brown. What was he doing in there?

Ugh, who wanted to know. I left him alone until this afternoon, when I hauled him out into the light of day. I plunked him on a table, opened up his Ziploc, and had a taste.

Mr. Turnip—Herr Sauerruben, I should call him now—still has the faintest whiff of sulphur about him. But fermentation has turned him complex and flavorful. He is milder than sauerkraut, but he has a hint of the same bite as horseradish. There’s a meaty umami flavor to him. He reminds me of daikon pickled in soy sauce.

So here we stand. Mr. Turnip has emerged from his ordeal a transformed being. But I am asking the same question: What the hell am I going to do with him?

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Thanks for your comments - nothing scatological, please. If you wouldn't bring it in the kitchen, please don't say it here.