As we approach the new year it's a time that those of us who are already painfully sentimental, decide to kick things into overdrive. At a recent office happy hour, Alex was reminiscing of an email he received over five years ago, when our company was first starting out! It was from an off-the-grid homesteader in Alaska, who had somehow managed to find a computer and internet access to write to us that he "liked our products!". He also mentioned something that has haunted Alex for many, many years: a "stinky rutabaga sauerkraut that will knock your socks off!". Alex tried fruitlessly to broker a deal with the homesteader, exchanging equipment for the recipe. Three issues arose:
- Homesteader had no interest in new equipment, having already accumulated all the crocks, barrels, shredders & books that he'd ever need over the course of many years.
- Homesteader had no interest in sharing his secret recipe with Alex. He was just here to brag.
- He was, however, willing to speak in some generalities and give Alex some clues to 'get him on the right track' with ingredients.
Around this point the conversation went cold. Presumably because homesteader's local public library must have been closed down due to lack of a local tax revenue - taking his internet access with it.
Flash forward years later, Alex now gets to assign seemingly arbitrary research projects in random fits of nostalgia. Chris (me) was recently on the receiving end of one such episode. Using the ingredients that Alex learned about from the homesteader as well as ...Google? I was able to create some delicious results! The following rutabaga research and recipe were the bi-products of this project. Enjoy!
This delicious recipe came about after doing a decent amount of research and lots of testing. It was inspired by and loosely based around a version we learned of from an Alaskan homesteader long ago. See the earlier part of this article for more of the backstory!
There's a lot of mystery and misconception surrounding the noble but ugly rutabaga. The first of all, the rutabaga is not exactly a turnip! It's more like a cousin of the turnip with a weird uncle who was a cabbage mixed in somewhere along the line. In other words, it's a cruciferous veggie with a ball like appearance. Despite the confusing lineage Sauerruben (a sauerkraut made from turnips) can be made quite easily using rutabaga! You'll want a nice grater for the project, and a study fermentation vessel. The ingredients are minimal but the results are flavorful!
Alaskan Backwoods Rutabaga Sauerkraut or Sauerruben.
- 6lbs Rutabaga
- 2 Generous Tablespoons Sea Salt
- 1-2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes (or more to taste)
Start by removing the tops, bottoms and skins from the rutabagas. If you are certain the rutabagas have not had any waxes or preservatives applied to the skins, you can simply scrub the skins thoroughly instead of peeling them. There are actually lots of helpful microbes waiting in the skins for their chance to help in fermentation. By leaving the skins on you'll have a more rustic looking and tasting product. The choice is yours to make.
Grate the rutabagas using a grater into coarse shreds. Mix in all the ingredients, and knead it well. Rutabagas can be a bit drier than cabbage, but really working in the salt can help to release the juices needed to keep them submerged in brine during fermentation. Pack tightly into a crock. Ferment as usual beginning at room temperature 3 days before moving to cooler temperatures for 3 weeks! Start sampling and enjoy! It is AMAZING served up on hot dogs of the veggie or meat variety. :)