In a recent conversation with my friend Aaron, the subject quickly moved to the subject of pickles – specifically these pickled turnips he and his wife Dahlia seemed to only find in Jerusalem and did I think I could recreate them. He briefly described them to me and after a quick google search, I realized not only would they be fairly easy to make, but I had a recipe on hand for them already. (Joy of Pickling of course.)
I spent some time reading up on pink pickled turnips and taking what Aaron had told me about them into consideration, I set out to make a small batch. I tossed some sliced turnips, a chioggia beet and 3 garlic bulbs with some kosher salt, packed them into a wide mouth quart jar and covered them with a brine of equal parts water and vinegar. Using Amanda’s ghetto jar method, I used a smaller jar as a weight to ensure the turnips were fully submerged in the brine, covered them with a clean dishtowel and then left them to sit on my kitchen counter.
Within a few hours, the brine had quickly turned a lovely shade of pink thanks to the beets. After sitting on my counter for 6 days, I packed the pickles into a jar Aaron’s wife Dahlia had saved for me and left them on their back stoop as I was headed out of town last weekend. I had purposely kept the batch very simple – there were many variations on this pickle out there, but the one Aaron had described didn’t seem to have much added to it beyond brine and garlic, with a beet for color. I wasn’t sure how they’d compare with what they were used to – I’ve never had middle eastern pink pickled turnips – but according to Dahlia, I appear to have nailed her Iraqi Grandfather’s pickled turnips. I didn’t realize that’s how high the bar was, but there really is no higher compliment in my world than conjuring up a food memory from your grandparents.
And thus begins and ends the great pink pickled turnip experiment. Once you’ve nailed a grandfather’s pickles, you just don’t try to improve on that.
Pink Pickled Turnips
2 pounds turnips, peeled and sliced (or quartered)
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
3 garlic bulbs
2 Tbsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
Combine turnips, beet and garlic and toss with salt. Pack into a jar and cover with brine, ensuring vegetables are fully submerged. Let sit covered with a clean dishtowel for 6-10 days, tasting the turnips to check for doneness. At this point, cap the jar and refrigerate. The turnips should keep well for 4-6 weeks.
A few notes – the garlic turned blue here, which is common in pickling. It’s still absolutely safe to eat. As with all fermenting and pickling, I used kosher salt as it has no additives like table salt, which can turn brines cloudy or discolor your pickles. I used tap water that had been boiled and then cooled to room temperature. This helps removed the chlorine used to treat the water that can inhibit the friendly microbes you want to encourage in the fermenting process.