Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Homage to the turnip

Turnips are a humble vegetable. They get little notice, seem to be an afterthought thrown into pot roasts. I grew up eating them only on St. Patrick's Day, boiled up with the corned beef and cabbage. Turnips even look humble, their purple skins make them appear to be blushing, coloring the otherwise perfect white flesh.

It's time turnips get their due. They are sweet. Throwing turnips in a pot roast adds an unmistakable sweetness to the broth. And unlike onions, which also sweeten during cooking, turnips are perfectly sweet and delightful raw. I first discovered this when I made this salad, which has since become a personal staple, being a favorite of mine as well as my roomate. Raw, turnips give a lovely crunch, more so than that of an apple. And turnips have a slight fire to them. A little heat to contrast the sweetness, a subtle spiciness.

And so, seeing a large basket of turnips for sale at the farmers' market last week for only $2.50, I couldn't pass it up. $2.50. Talk about a deal. That's like 10 cents a turnip. They were giving them away.

But what's a girl to do with all those turnips? They'll keep for awhile in the fridge, but aren't as hearty as a squash. So, I decided to pickle some. Maybe you've never heard of a pickled turnip. I haven't. But, I thought, what's the harm? $2.50 isn't much to pay for an experiment.

So I peeled about half my turnips down to their beautiful white flesh, cut them into chunks, and threw 'em in a pot. Added some vinegar and water to cover and to season, added: peppercorns, fresh ginger, star anise, crushed red pepper, sugar, and salt. I brought it all to a boil and let the turnips cook, but not get too soft. Then put it all in jars. I also packed some sliced garlic in with the turnips as I jarred them. Kind of an asian vibe going on.

And the result? Nice. It's exciting to bite into something pure white, but get all these spicy flavors melding together on top of that underbelly of sweetness. My pantry is a little happier with these babies around

Pickled turnips, canned tomatoes (both diced and crushed), chili pepper chutney