Sauerruben (Fermented Turnips)

I had recalled a recipe from many years ago for sauerruben when I first read Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation, but hadn’t thought much about it, until I started growing turnips in my garden! Turnips are one of the easiest root veggies to grow, in my experience. Just plant the seeds in the bed, and they grow with little fuss and few pests! They seem to grow quickly too.

Turnips have a naturally pungent spicy, mustard like flavor and aroma (it’s in the mustard family!)

Sauerruben is traditionally fermented turnips and rutabaga. Employing a local twist, instead of rutabaga, I used fennel bulbs. Fennel is quite common in my arid Mediterranean climate. It’s feral, growing everywhere in my yard and plentiful this time of year (spring). So I thought it would add a nice counterpoint to the pungency of turnips, since the bulbs contain sweetness and crunch. I was right!

I wound up making pieces a bit wider than julienne (matchsticks). You could certainly use a grater, food processor or a slicer, but I did this work with a chef knife. I like how the finished texture and crunch ended up. It has notes of mustard, and would be a great addition to a Reuben(!), on avocado toast, tossed into a green salad, or as a substitute for sauerkraut.

Sauerruben (Fermented Turnips)
Prep time
Fermentation time
Yield: 1 quart/liter
  • 1 lb. (500 g) turnips
  • 1 lb. (500 g) fennel bulb
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) sea salt
  1. Slice the fennel bulb into matchstick pieces. Reserve some of the fronds.
  2. Scrub the turnips and remove any hairy roots with a vegetable peeler. You don't have to peel the entire root.
  3. Sprinkle salt over the sliced veggies and mix well in a bowl until veggies begin to soften. Some brine will form, but not as much as with cabbage.
  4. Chop the fennel fronds and sprinkle over the veggies.
  5. Pack mixture into a vessel and weigh down with weight. Cover with an airlock or a clean cloth secured with a rubber band or twist tie.
  6. Ferment 10 to 14 days.
  7. When you like the taste and texture, remove weight, and replace airlock with regular lid. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  8. Keeps in refrigerator 1-2 months.


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