The modest root vegetable makes a potent liquor in Wildschönau, Austria.
If all the world’s vegetables gathered for a shindig, the humble turnip probably wouldn’t be the life of the party. But in Austria’s Wildschönau Valley, a shot of schnapps made from the root veggie could very well get one started. Local residents have been distilling a strong turnip liquor called Wildschönauer Krautinger as far back as the 1700s, when Habsburg empress Maria Theresa granted 51 area farmers the exclusive rights to produce it. Around 15 families still make it today. Wildschönau residents celebrate all things turnip during the Krautinger Week festival in October.
Turnips were traditionally a staple of the alpine diet since they can tolerate the challenging mountain growing conditions. Turnip sauerkraut provided nourishment throughout the winter, improved digestion, and the vegetable even earned a spot on some noble families’ coats of arms.
The schnapps is unique, with a distinct whiff of vegetables. “The smell takes some getting used to and you either love or hate the taste,” a tourist site promoting the region concedes. One blogger describes it as “a hit of pure sauerkraut, which [trails] off into something weird which reminded me of a pair of training shoes I once owned.” (Best review ever)
“I was raised almost entirely on turnips and potatoes,
but I think that the turnips had more to do with the effect than the potatoes.“
credits: gastro obscura, wildschonau tourismus, photographer – r. newman