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Pink pickle spreads mealtime sparkle

If winter seems a season for spindly veggies, check your grocer’s produce section again.

Fennel, the focus of my most recent food section column, has buxom, beguiling bulbs sprouting slender stalks. Corpulent cabbages can tip the scales at close to 5 pounds apiece, as I bragged in a November post.

And among my most recent purchases was a nearly 2-pound turnip. A root that large will keep my family in slaws and shredded turnip for topping tacos and rice bowls for nearly two weeks. That is, unless I consign the entire thing to a batch of quick pickles, which my 5-year-old son will almost single-handedly consume in a sitting.

This recipe also incorporates a beet, which may entice my partner, typically not a turnip fan. Playing second string to the turnip here, the beet does color the entire batch a gorgeous hot pink to enliven the most drab winter menus.

Tribune News Service photo

Middle Eastern-Style Pickled Turnips

1 cup white distilled vinegar

1/3 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled

2 bay leaves

1 jalapeno, serrano or Fresno chile, cut in half or into 1/4-inch rings (optional)

2 pounds turnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch square sticks, bite-sized chunks or 1/2-inch thick half circles

1 beet, trimmed, peeled and cut same as turnips

To make brine: Combine in a heavy-bottomed saucepan 3 cups water with the white vinegar, kosher salt and sugar. Heat over high flame, stirring occasionally, until salt is completely dissolved, for about 4 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place the crushed garlic, bay leaves and optional chile in bottom of a large canning jar (or divide between 2 smaller jars). Add the trimmed, cut turnips and beet.

Pour brine into jars, covering vegetables completely and coming to 1/2 inch below top. Screw lids tightly onto jars.

Place jars in a cool, dry place for 5 to 7 days. When ready to eat, store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.