Wildschönauer Krautinger: Austria’s Turnip Schnapps

The union of Alpbach and the Wildschönau, an Austrian community in the Kufstein district of Tyrol, has created one of Austria’s prettiest and friendliest ski areas. Relatively low-cost, Ski Juwel is a place to target if you don’t like touristic places of the big-name resorts.
But this isn’t the only feature of the area.
In Wildschönau Valley locals 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 distillery rights.
And about 15/16 families make it still today.
The cure-all can be found in almost every local household and is used also against every small ailment. And, moreover, after a heavy meal a glass of Krautinger as a digestif is just the thing, as it is said to improve digestion.

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, and the vegetable even earned a spot on some noble families’ coats of arms.
Moreover, it has helped the region to the coveted seal of culinary excellence the “Genussregion” title which means that a region is known nationwide for a particularly high quality product.
And Wildschönau is the eighth region in Tirol to have this honour, helding the title since 2006.

The white beet or turnip is harvested in summer, washed and chopped into a pulp. The mash is then reduced to a third of it’s volume, mixed with yeast, left for 48 hours and finally distilled. But the process isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
Among other things the type of fire used to heat the mass is decisive, and electric heat is frowned upon by distillers. The required temperature is reached by burning beech wood, and the original Krautinger distillers use only home grown beet seed, disdaining industrially produced seed.
The result is unique, with a distinct whiff of vegetables.
The smell takes some getting used to and you either love or hate the taste, but, in any case a little sample is almost unavoidable on a visit to the Wildschönau.

Wildschönau residents celebrate all things turnip during the “Krautinger Week festival” in October.
The whole week is dedicated to the vegetable in all it’s connotations and ends with a bang at the Harvest Festival in the Z’Bach Farming Museum, where the year’s best schnapps is chosen.
But turnip isn’t just enjoyed in liquid form, as it is also as an ingredient of many dish on menus around the valley. 10 restaurants present specialties during the Krautinger Week including turnip ravioli, turnip carpacchio, turnip soup or fish with a side dish of turnip.

Images from web – Google Research

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