Monday, 25 January 2010

Savoring the winter roots

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Almost weekly during the winter, I dig roots for the kitchen and the barn. Posts about the process are here and here. This post will deal with the kitchen aspect of our weekly winter harvest.

In recent history roots have been considered peasant fare, since root crops keep well and are usually root cellared or preserved allowing a measure of self-reliance from stores. It was thought that purchasing food from the store was the sought after ideal. However, the pendulum has swung back to favor independence from the store these days. Food borne illness, concerns about food miles and just a general yearning for simpler times are bringing these delicious foods back to the kitchen. And most roots require medium fertility for growth making them a great choice for self-reliant gardeners.

This week my harvest included carrots, beets, parsnips, black spanish radish, rutabagas and celeriac.

I could eat rutabagas almost every day, but my family kicks a little at that, so I have to fix them in different ways to keep meals from being boring.

Sauerruben, or lacto-fermented rutabagas are a welcome change from kraut made from cabbage. My husband inherited his grandfather's 12 gallon Red Wing kraut crock and boards, but I don't fill that crock too often with kraut. It is too much at one time.

No one in his family was interested in that "old thing" so he gladly brought it home along with the weight boards and kraut cutter. The kraut cutter met a fate common to many good usable antiques though... :( One time his family was visiting and we had a function to go to. Well, long story, short, while we were gone they cooked up the idea to refinish and varnish the cutter so it would look "pretty" on the wall! Sighhh - Homer Formby strikes again. It looks good...but is not safe for food preparation any longer.

When we decided to replace it, we first checked Lehman's and they have a great kraut cutter, but it seemed expensive with shipping, and then luck would have it, we found the perfect cutter in an antique store for a little less.

Like new, I have used this for many slicing jobs.

However, I did pay a little more than the original penciled price of $2.75! The antique store where we made our purchase had bought the stock from an old hardware store. Our cutter had never been sold, we were the first ones to put cabbage to the blades!

Today, I made sauerruben with some of the rutabagas from this weeks dig. Basically just sauerkraut made with turnips or rutabagas.

Using the kraut cutter is actually easier than grating the rutabagas. But it is a two part proposition. First, I slice the rutabaga very thin.

Then I coarsely chop the rounds into rustic slices. The slices are incredibly tender, and slice easily. The whole operation to prepare enough for a half-gallon jar took about 5 minutes. Peeling and cutting of the root ends took about 5 minutes as well.

Just like sauerkraut, use a non-reactive container since you will be adding salt.

I use Celtic sea salt, and the recipe is the same as for kraut: 3 Tablespoons per 5 pounds of vegetable.

The salt will bring out the juice in the vegetable for the brine.

Pack tightly in a wide mouth jar, crock or ?? Make sure brine is covering the vegetable. Cover tightly. Some people use a plastic bag filled with water, or a small canning jar filled with water to keep the vegetable below the brine. Fermentation time depends on temperature - 70 degrees F or lower is better for fermentation.

Now on to dinner, rutabagas lend themselves well to gratin dishes. More pungent when fresh, cooking seems to moderate the flavor a bit.

Two rutabagas, and 1 celeriac bulb parboiled and layered with grated cheese, and one large onion sliced in a shallow baking dish, plus a quick Bechamel sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Pop in the oven for about an hour and you have a great vegetable side dish. If you have a favorite au gratin or scalloped potato recipe, just substitute different roots for a change of pace. And if you can bear it, cool it and reheat the next day, it is even better.

Rutabaga? If lovin' you is wrong, I don't want to be right!


Michelle said...

lol, love that last line. It all sounds delicious. I have to admit though, I have never had a rutabaga. I guess i need to try one.

Green Gal said...

Mmm those veggies look good and fresh! I wish my family grew its own veggies. We just haven't gotten to that point yet...and we have a crazy dog who eats enough things inside the house that planting things outside would probably cause a lot of stress. I do hope at some point to grow veggies, but with college next year it's looking like it won't be very soon. Thanks for sharing!

karen said...

That sounds yummy, can't wait to try your recipe. I usually cook more than I need for a meal and save the leftovers. I like to make patties with mashed rutabaga and garlic mashed potatoes mixed together. I fry them up in some butter and oil. So good!

Julie said...


For all the Aussies who have no idea what a rutabga is - it's called a Swede over here :-)

Amy said...

Oh my, I love your stove! Can you tell me more about it? Does it burn wood? Is it functional?

Happy Mama said...

Thanks, Julie - I had no idea what a rutabaga was!

In Scotland, they are officially called Swedes too, but we call them turnips or neeps.
Many, many will have been eaten tonight throughout the country as this is Burns Night - haggis, tatties and neeps for dinner, a wee dram of whiskey, and reading the poetry of Rabbie Burns (Robert Burns).

My Dutch mother-in-law calls swedes "varken" (pigs) food as it isn't grown for humans over in Holland (so she says but I can't believe that!)

Anyway, I just thought I'd add to the "rutabaga" enthusiasm :-)

Karen in Scotland

Dia said...

We get rutabagas & other root veggies in our fall/winter CSA share, hadn't thought of doing a kraut with them!
I have also added them to grated potatoes/sweet potatoes, simply sauted in some coconut oil with a bit of onion & maybe some local mushrooms (wildcrafted by some folk that come to our Sat market!), or in a winter Rattatoui.
Dandelion & burdock are some other roots that make great additions to things - Susun Weed suggests grating them for 'quick root' recipes.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Michelle, if you like the taste of cabbage type plants you will probably like rutabagas :) Extra good just lightly steamed with butter, salt and pepper too!

Green Gal, thanks for the comment, our dog go crazy for the veggies too, although they do practice some restraint now that they are a little older!

Karen, I like to make the patties too, it so easy to just add a little extra when cooking the first batch, and then I have a breakfast treat with my eggs!

Julie, thanks, the term Swede isn't to common here unless you're from Canada, and most people think they are turnips and turn up their noses at the smell. It's easy to forget that the world is reading these posts :)

Amy, thanks! Yep it burns wood and dinner sometimes! That is if I keep the wood supply coming.

History of the stove: House built 1881 by my grandfather, stove bought in 1917 by my grandmother. In 1984 I had the stove repaired to give it a new lease on life. So it has only been out of our kitchen for 2 months since it was purchased. And in case the math doesn't seem to add up, my parents married late, had a family and then OOPS, another baby some time later - me... .

But actually, the stove is great, we use it for cooking/heating about 8 months out of the year.

Happy Mama, great comment! Neeps and tatties always sounds so much more interesting than rutabagas and potatoes!

Lucky pigs!! :)

Dia, all the roots are so versatile, we never eat them in the warm months, and by the time comes around to harvest them, they are very tasty after a little cold weather - we do a root roast many nights and make enough for several meals - Delicious.

Liz said...

What an awful thing for someone to do to your kraut cutter! A relative refinished an old walnut dresser I'd let them use temporarily. Won't go into details, but that's one person who will never see another piece of my furniture. Good thing you found another one. The cutter from Lehmans is fairly expensive, but very good quality--I have one. Sharp enough to cut off the tip of your finger if you aren't careful (don't ask).

Love that stove. I have a wood-burning cookstove but no place to put it yet, awaiting kitchen renovation at some future point.

Rutabagas are one of my favorite vegetables, and I plan to grow them this coming year.

Great post!

Honey said...

I've only made saurkraut...will have to try the 'begas but what has me squealing like a valley girl is that beautiful stove of yours...

I'm willing to trade a child...I have 3...and a husband... :)

LOVE that beauty...I've been seeking my own. Around here I will find them...beautiful too...and yet some how they are not operational...seriously how does one make them unable to burn wood?...sad,sad,sad to tease a Honey so...

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Liz, we were about ready to buy the Lehman's model and then found the other one.

You will love your stove once you get it in place - different to cook on but in a good way :)

Happy gardening!

Honey, you don't happen to have a spare wife do you for trade? I am such a tomboy, I would rather bring in the wood than cook with it :)

Ask around for stove restorers - there are several around here, usually the stove needs new grates in the firebox and most likely just some tin work for the oven part. Unless the cast top has been cracked in which case stay away from those. But they are around and the new ones being made are just as pretty and will last your lifetime!

Joyful said...

That looks delicious.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny said...

I have woodstove envy.... drool. I have made lacto fermented saurkraut from cabbage, but I have not considered doing it with another vegetable. It looks absolutely delicious. If rutabags are pig food, then oink oink, so sayeth I. :)

Chris said...

Oh, I keep saying I must do this and now you've got my mouth watering and it's 7am and I'm thinking, "Root vegetables gratin for breakfast! Well maybe lunch?"

the wild magnolia said...

Looks and sound delish! Love your blog, practical, informed and honest. Although I live in an apartment and gardening is a no-no, I can still implement many of your wonderful information.