Turnip Pickles and the Winter Pantry

In case you're wondering, pickling turnips is not a Czech thing (as far as I know.) But my Dad did it last Sunday morning and it offered a chance to talk to my parents about their winter canning pantry and what they remember from their childhood.

Selections from my parents' canning pantry - pickled okra, beets and bread and butter pickles.
The reason for pickling the turnips was necessity which is the reason for canning in general. My mother's brother A.J. (Alois Joseph) and his wife Alice have a marvelous garden outside of Hallettsville. On their way to Houston last Friday, they left a cooler full of vegetables on my parents' doorstep in Katy. Their little garden spot is a mass producer and, rather than feed the excess to the cattle which my Uncle A.J. had been resorting to, they shared with my parents.

Uncle A.J. and Aunt Alice (Kocian) Kallus, Hallettsville 
In the cooler were broccoli, turnips, beets, and carrots. Right away my parents pickled the beets and ate steamed broccoli for dinner. There were too many turnips to just eat creamed (the most likely dish since both my parents remember eating it that way as kids), so they did an internet search for something new and found a recipe for pickled turnips. Well, my parents are expert canners - they didn't need the recipe as they have their own tried and true favorites - they just needed the inspiration.

The winter pantries of my parents' childhood did not include pickled turnips. My mother (grew up in Hallettsville) remembers her mother putting up pears and plain pickled beets in her kitchen. My father's mother, a Zielonka (Polish), also did pears and beets, but went to her own parents' house near Cuero in DeWitte County to can with her mother and sisters. They would put up 100 to 125 quarts of things and then divide them up to take home. Her father would butcher a pig and store the meat in crocks covered in lard. He also kept molasses in the smokehouse, bought in a barrel, much to the delight of my Dad and his cousins, who would sneak in and steal the drips from the spigot. My father's grandmother Orsak (Czech) would do crock sauerkraut, as did her boys, George and Jerry. (Their extremely fertile winter garden also yielded cauliflower and kohlrabi, but those were eaten fresh.)

Of course, the dill was waiting in a cup from Prasek's.

So, pickling turnips was an interesting prospect for my parents... unusual, but within the realm of possibly being delicious. My Dad (overseen by my Mom) used their standard garlic pickle recipe which includes garlic, dill, and a chile arbol, but allowed himself a variation so that, in one batch, he could figure out which was going to work best. To one jar he deviated from the recipe by adding sugar, pickling spices, and some fresh, chopped jalapeno.

Dad stuffing the jars with turnips, dill, garlic and a dried chile arbol.

When I got home to Austin Sunday, my Dad had left me a phone message... "Well, I don't know what they're going to taste like, but damn, they're colorful!... white turnips, red chile, green dill and blue garlic."

If they turn out well, I'll post the recipe. As far as other winter pantry staples, I've found recipes in Czech community cookbooks for sauerkraut, pickled beets, spiced pickled beets, pickled sweet onions, sweet pickled cabbage, canned pears, pear relish and pear butter. I'd love to know about any others you know of, dear blog readers.


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