Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turnips for Thanksgiving

Tomorrow we are having 21 people for Thanksgiving - most of them family but we have added a few friends to the mix. I love Thanksgiving and our farm is the perfect place to celebrate. We make it an old-fashioned day - taking a hayride through the hills and then eating, eating, and eating some more. My sister Lynn and my Mom have been here helping to get ready but as usual, we are doing more talking than anything. Tonight we'll be cooking up a storm in preparation for the big day.

I love the Thanksgiving Holiday more than any other. No pressure except for a lot of cooking which I don't mind at all. I always make turnips for Thanksgiving. It began when I asked The Farmer what his family traditionally ate for Thanksgiving and what he would really miss, knowing my family's culinary traditions. He said "turnips." I was stymied because I had never, ever eaten a turnip - never at all. I told my Mom on one of our first married Thanksgivings when we would brave the hoards of other people heading to New Jersey to celebrate with family. (Thank goodness we don't do that anymore!) She said "okay - you make them." That led me on one of my culinary adventures which continues to this day.

When we moved to the farm and I started to become more interested in sourcing local food and growing it, I discovered something called the "Gilfeather Turnip." I grew them a few times, getting the seeds from somewhere that I can't remember. Now I get my Gilfeathers from my friends at Coyote Hill Farm. I don't know what the difference really is in the taste of the Gilfeathers but whenever I cook them, everyone loves them. It should be noted that many vegetable farmers around here are now also growing a quick maturing turnip which they call "salad turnips." These are sliced and eaten raw in the spring and early summer.

Thus to the purpose of this post. My sister Laurie suggested I write about turnips. My whole family has come to look forward to eating them once a year but everyone is perplexed at how to cook them and what kind to buy. Tomorrow, we're going to have a little turnip tasting to see which variety wins. Here's the selection of turnips I am cooking.

From left to right: Two Gilfeather turnips, one "Purple Top", One Cape Turnip, and The Farmer's favorite Rutabaga (these are the ones covered with wax that you commonly see at grocery stores and are also known as swedes or yellow turnips)

How I cook them?
1. Peel them.
2. Cut them into chunks about 1". Peel 2 apples and core. Cut the apples into slices.
3. Boil the turnips and apples until soft.
4. Mash them and add a generous amount of butter, salt and pepper.
That's it - what could be easier?

I have also made Mario Batali's Turnip Risotto which I found in one of his cookbooks. Always on the look out for a new way to cook turnips, I was wary of this one. But my oh my - it is awesome. I will try to do this recipe again during December now that the days are short and I have more time to cook. Trolling the web, these special Gilfeather recipes also look like they should be on my list to try! But they don't have the correct photo of "Gilfeathers" at the top of the page - those are just common purple top turnips.

Purple top turnips are commonly used for livestock feed. The Farmer is always talking about growing a field of turnips for the sheep although we have yet to get there yet. Here you can read about how important turnips are for sheep feed in the UK when the grass has stopped growing. I am pretty sure farmers in the west grow turnips to graze their sheep on in the fall.

I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you live.


Auntie Shan said...

I remember eating those Rutabagas raw when I was little. It was like eating something that was a cross between a radish and a potato in texture. I liked them. Although, prefer them cooked now...

Anyway, Kristin, I hope YOU and ALL of Your FAMILY have a wonderful THANKSGIVING holiday! -- And the Same to all of the Other "American" Readers here!

Sally said...

Kristin, I thought I was reading my own story there for a bit (except my "Farmer" is a city boy from Philly, and I'm a midwesterner!) So when my city boy (CB) said we needed mashed turnips, I bought what were called turnips at the local grocery. CB said, "Those aren't turnips!" requiring a trip to the store together where he picked up a rutabaga and said, "This is a turnip!" Now we do rutabagas/turnips of all sorts, loving especially roasted with rosemary and other root veg.
Have a lovely lovely T'giving, Kristin!

S said...

A very merry Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Abby said...

Ate my first turnips and rutabagas a year or two ago (those Thanksgivings just run together after a while), in a recipe from AARP. They were roasted. Another good recipe for roasting root veggies may be found in Love Soup. Happy T-day!

crownover said...

I'm a former city girl from Philly, and we always had mashed turnips from the Horn and Hardart cafeteria retail store. After the chain closed, we realized that turnips were not orange. The H&H version added carrots.