Grape marc soured turnip or repa tropinka
Traditional ingredient of popular local dishes
Grape marc soured turnip, locally referred to as repa tropinka, is a cherished part of the local culinary heritage. Today, the dish is celebrated for its authentic taste and superior nutritional value. According to written and oral accounts turnip has always been one of the most wide spread agricultural products in the Vipava Valley. For centuries soured turnip constituted the main ingredient of hearty dishes, with jota (a stew incorporating sauerkraut or turnip) acting as the poster child of the traditional cuisine of the region. According to ancient methods, grape marc (preferably from red grapes) is used as the fermentation agent, hence the name tropinka (tropine is Slovenian for grape marc).
Old records and depictions coupled with modern research shows that the grape marc fermentation method for preserving turnip was brought to the Vipava Valley from the next-door region of Friuli. Settled by Slavic peoples in its eastern part, the region has been recently making great discoveries with regard to the significance of turnip in an era when potatoes, corn and beans were not yet around. In those days turnip provided essential sustenance, unlike today where it is considered to be a wholesome, nutrient-dense dish with great health benefits due to the probiotics it contains.
The fermentation starts before the turnip is fully ripe. As soon as the grape harvest is over, some of the grape marc is put aside and saved for another month or two, waiting for the turnips to ripen out in the fields. To make tropinka, farmers pick out the finest and healthiest roots of similar size to ensure even fermentation later on. The selected turnips are placed in special barrels. Sandwiched in between are layers of grape marc. Next, water is poured over the layers and the barrels are tightly closed. The fermentation process is over in a month or two if the temperature is right, producing a highly cherished condiment.
Freshly grated, tropinka entices with a distinct tangy aroma. Tropinka fermented with red grape marc takes on a soft pink hue. In the Vipava Valley, a popular method for preparing the dish is by adding cured meat, pancetta or sausage. Cooked tropinka seasoned with cracklings makes for an excellent side dish to meats, with jota (a turnip stew from tropinka) reigning supreme in local cuisine. Even though jota with sauerkraut is a staple around here, tropnika remains by far the most popular iteration of jota.
The traditional Vipava jota and other dishes from tropinka can be enjoyed in agritourism farms dotting the region, especially if you book in advance. For the most part of the year, especially in winter, tropinka dishes are available in inns and restaurants with an offer of regional comfort foods.