It’s Time for Turşu! Here’s how to make your own pickled vegetables Turkish style

As fall and winter are approaching, it is time to make Turşu in Turkey. Turşu is the name given to sour pickled vegetables, like cucumber, cabbage, tomato, cauliflower, peppers and more. This way of conserving vegetables is an old tradition that is still carried out by many Turkish families. You can also try to make your own pickles with this Turşu recipe.

For centuries people have had ways of storing vegetables for times when fresh vegetables are in short supply. For example during the winter or when travelling. In Turkey the tradition of preserving vegetables is still practiced in many families. At the first signs of autumn, the large jars of glass and plastic reappear and Turşu is made.

The best time for making Turşu

Winter is the ideal time for homemade Turşu as the temperature is perfect for the process of giving vegetables their long-life and sour taste. It doesn’t, however, mean that it’s only available in that period. Turşu is sold in supermarkets and served in restaurants all-year-round. Large cities like Istanbul and Ankara even have special Turşu shops, selling dozens of varieties of Turşu.

The first Turşu shop in Ankara

The photos we made for this article were taken at Hüsmen Ağa, one of the first Turşu shops in Ankara. The founder of the shop, Burhan Dinçel, began in 1967 in Kizilay, now the ever-bustling, lively economic heart of the capital. Nowadays the shop is run by the second generation, his son Kahraman Dinçel. “The secret of making good Tursu”, says Kahraman Dinçel, “lies in the exceptional quality of the vegetables used and the right balance of salt and vinegar.”

How the vegetables get their long life

Well, it does take a bit of practice. The vegetables need to be firm and healthy at the time of use. Greengrocers always sell special Turşu cucumbers and tomatoes around this time of year. The addition of (special) salt and vinegar to a solution of Turşu makes the vegetables undergo lactic fermentation. These ingredients prevent the growth of harmful organisms.

Storage temperature

The process involves the transformation of the sugars in the vegetables into healthy lactic acid bacteria. These, in turn, give the vegetables their long life. It takes a few weeks at a somewhat cool storage place for Turşu to reach its optimum taste. The storage temperature is very important as it can still be quite warm in Alanya in winter, which is not conducive for the fermentation process…..

Beginners’ Guide to making your own Turşu

There are lots ways of making Turşu and every family has its own secret ingredients. Below is a step-by-step beginners’ guide to making Turşu, taken from our mother-in-law! Warning: if, after a few weeks (wait at least two!), you open the jar and discover that the vegetables are slimy and smell not-so-good, something went wrong and you’ll have to throw the whole lot away and start again.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, glass jar of about 5 litres (plastic is also acceptable, but do NOT use metal)
  • Dried chickpeas (noğut), enough to cover the bottom of the jar. Chickpeas assist the fermentation process and absorb impurities that would otherwise make the juice cloudy.
  • Turşu vegetables, for example green tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage (lahana), cauliflower (karnebahar) and carrots.
  • 10 cloves of garlic (sarımsak)
  • (Handful of) green peppers
  • ½ sprig of mint (nane)
  • ½ sprig of parsley (maydanoz)
  • Slice of lemon
  • 1.5 litres vinegar (sirke)
  • Approximately 3 litres water
  • 1 cup (125 g) Tursu salt (Kaya tuzu)

Method

  • Clean the jar well, preferably with boiled water
  • Prick the skin of the tomatoes and cucumbers with a fork.
  • Cut the cabbage into half-centimeter thick pieces.
  • Cut the cauliflower into florets and slice the carrots.
  • Cover the bottom of the jar with a layer of chickpeas, then fill with the vegetables. The exact sequence is up to you, but remember to add an occasional clove of garlic and some peppers. Add the sprigs of mint and/or parsley and top with the slice of lemon.
  • Use something heavy, for example a clean stone or a saucer, to keep the vegetables in place while pouring in the liquid.
  • Turşu juice is made from salt, vinegar and water. Bring the water to the boil, dissolve in the salt and add the vinegar. Fill the jar to the neck, ensuring that the juice covers all the vegetables. Screw on the lid.
  • Stand the jar for a month in a dry, cool place, for example on in a cellar or a dark closet.
  • After about two weeks you can check that everything is okay. If that’s the case, congratulations and bon appetite later.

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