The Humble Turnip!

Turnips aren’t just vintage!  They are ancient!  We know they were eaten by the Romans at the beginning of the Christian Era. They were easy to cultivate, so they spread to many places.  

I’ll take you back to the time Henry VIII.  Turnips were on the menu!   They boiled and baked the turnip roots.  They stewed the turnip tops and made ‘salat’ from the tender-most greens!  

The turnip came to Canada in 1541 by the French explorer, Jacques Cartier.  Colonists brought the turnip to Virginia in the 1620s and the Native Americans adopted it and it became commonly grown. 

Some call the turnip ‘humble’.  I call it delicious.  I am a huge fan.  I also call it, inexpensive, easy to store and a bargain in the kitchen.  It is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and like so many other vintage vegetables, it is at the top of the healthy eating list!

There are many things to do with a turnip, and let’s not forget that the Irish used turnips to carve for jack o’ lanterns, long before the pumpkin debuted on All Hallows Eve!  The vintage recipes for cooking turnips in a pot with onion and smoked pork are all over cyber land.  You can use a ring of kielbasa, pork ribs, or bacon. 

You can add a turnip to your boiling potatoes and mash it right along with the spuds.  You can add a turnip, sliced thin, to the casserole of au gratin potatoes. Make sure you cube a turnip to add to your favorite version of vegetable soup. Roast chunks of turnip in the oven and let the sugar in them caramelize.  Delicious! Add julienne strips of turnip to a fresh salad.  Shred a turnip for a fantastic spice cake!  Yes!

I’m going to share two recipes with you.  This beautiful baked turnip is stuffed with sausage, breadcrumbs and Gouda cheese.  It is so easy, and it is important to note that I used left over breakfast sausage and a couple biscuits as my breadcrumbs! 

Use medium sized raw turnips. Cut the top off and scoop out most of the center.  Leave a half- inch thick shell.  Chop the part that you scoop out.  Mix it with some cooked sausage, breadcrumbs.  Stuff that mixture back into the turnip.  Top it with a pat of butter and a chunk of Gouda cheese.  Havarti cheese or Swiss cheese would be good, too.   

Add a little bit of water to the roasting pan and cover it with foil.  The water will steam the turnips and help them cook through.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, depending upon the size of the turnips.  Remove the foil and finish baking for another ten minutes, so the tops get crispy.  These are delicious and look beautiful plated or served on a big platter.  Enjoy!

I first featured this cake recipe in one of my Made at Home newspaper cooking columns in 2010, but I have shared it over and over again!  It is delicious and you’ll want to try it.  Nobody will know that there is a turnip in the batter! 

Turnip Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

1¾ cups granulated sugar 
3 eggs 
1 cup olive oil 
2 teaspoons almond extract

2 cups flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
2 cups shredded, peeled turnip

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Lemon Glaze: 
¼ cup fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup powdered sugar

Whip together the sugar, eggs, olive oil and almond extract.  Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and whip until well blended.  Stir in the turnip and walnuts.   Pour into a prepared 10- inch tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes until a pick inserted comes out clean.  Cool the cake for 20 minutes before inverting.   Mix the glaze ingredients until smooth and brush a little over the warm cake.   Reserve the remaining glaze to pour over each piece of cake when serving.

I'll be sharing this post with a couple parties, so make sure you check my sidebar for the list!  If you'd like to see other posts from my Vintage Vegetables series, just click the page in my menu!  Enjoy ... and eat your vegetables!

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