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Tuesday
Jan152013

Rutabagas

Rutabagas are similar to turnips...and not.  I, for one, can't stand turnips but LOVE rutabagas.  They are sweeter than turnips, without that mustardy bite, and have beautiful golden flesh.  Rutabagas store for a long time in a loosely-closed plastic bag in the fridge.  The ones at the store are waxed, so must be peeled; our home-grown ones don't need peeling.

We cook rutabagas the same ways we cook potatoes: diced for home-fries; cut in chunks and oven-roasted with a light coating of olive oil; boiled and mashed with butter.  If (like me) you don't care for the turnip-mustard taste, make sure to cook them to complete tenderness--they are sweetest that way.  We remember fondly a Scandinavian rutabaga souffle-casserole for which I've lost the recipe--it was delicious, and included a hint of nutmeg.  Rutabagas are also nice grated in stir-fry, or sliced thinly and eaten raw.  In The Victory Garden Cookbook, Marian Morash offers a recipe for honey-glazed rutabaga disks that is wonderful: slice them between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, brush with melted butter, bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then turn them over and brush with more butter and honey, bake another 15 minutes, and do the same once more--they should be completely tender. 

And this winter we are eating quarts and quarts of delicious rutabaga "kraut-chi," to borrow Sandor Katz's term for vegetable ferments that aren't exactly sauerkraut or kimchi.  "Sauerreuben" is in fact a traditional variation of sauerkraut, made with turnips or rutabagas, but ours is not authentic.  We grate the rutabagas, then mix them with enough plain salt to make them taste salty, and knead with our hands until there is lots of liquid released.  Then we pack it tightly into a jar, pressing down so the shreds are covered with liquid, cover it against bugs, and let it sit on the counter for 3 to 7 days, until it's salty-sour.  This is really easy, healthful, and GOOD--if you want more information, check out Katz's The Art of Fermentation at the MCPL.