Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Parsnips & Pears!

Parsnips are nearly as old as time!  They were no more popular during my favorite vintage period of the 1950s and 60s as in all other times!  I introduced myself to parsnips twenty years ago when I made a recipe for Winter White Soup, a creamed soup using only white root vegetables.  To my knowledge, I’d never had  a parsnip prior to that!

Parsnips should not be confused with white carrots.  Although a part of the carrot and parsley family, their flavor is slightly different.  They are sweet like carrots but have a bite of an earthy tone that makes me think of nuts.  Parsnips are often hidden in recipes!  They are used in soups, sometimes mashed as a thickening agent.  They are cubed and sliced and dropped in vegetable soups.  They are cooked whole in the preparation of stocks and sauces, sometimes removed and sometimes left in and pureed for thickening. Medium sized parsnips are the best.  The ones left in the ground through the winter are the sweetest.  There is so much flavor on the outside peel … don’t peel them!  Use a vegetable brush to clean them.

Native to the Eurasian continent, parsnips really have been around forever.  Writings of the Greeks and Romans note that it was difficult to differentiate between parsnips and carrots.  Carrots were white and purple during those times.  Both vegetables were cultivated by the Romans.  Roman Emperor Tiberius like parsnips so much that he accepted a tribute to Rome from Germany … mostly made of of parsnips!  Prior to the use of beets to process sugar, parsnips were used for that purpose.

The plants found their way to North America when French colonists took them to Canada, and British colonists took them to the Thirteen Colonies.  Parsnips were used as a starchy vegetable and not until the middle 1800s were they replaced by potatoes!

By the late 1800s, parsnips had regained popularity in England and in America.  England’s Royal Agricultural College cross cultivated some plants with wild stock and created an improved vegetable that was sweeter and easier to grow.

How were parsnips prepared in those times?  They were sliced or cubed, boiled and smothered with cream sauce.  They were sliced and fried just like we fry potatoes.  They were sliced, battered and fried.  They were cooked, smashed and formed into fritters or croquettes.  Often the croquettes were made even better by the addition of chopped walnuts.  They were stewed, mashed like potatoes and often with potatoes.  They were browned in butter or bacon grease.  THEY WERE MADE INTO PIES!  Yes!  I have a 1954 recipe for Sweet Parsnip Pie Parsnips can be cooked and pureed like pumpkin, flavored with a little lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg … and the pie is delicious!  Use your favorite pumpkin pie recipe, adding a teaspoon of lemon zest and replacing the pumpkin with pureed parsnip.  The flavor is amazing!

Today I’m sharing a recipe that is brand new to me!  We recently visited my son-in-law’s uncle’s farm and he invited us to take all the pears we could carry from this beautiful pear tree.  Many of the pears had fallen to the ground and the kids enjoyed shaking the branches so more fell!  We left with bags of pears and I couldn’t wait to find an unusual recipe for them.  Of course, just eating them fresh might be the best way to enjoy them!

As I was thumbing through my vintage cookbooks, a neat recipe jumped right out!  This puree of pears and parsnips is delicious.  I adjusted the recipe to make me happy, and I encourage you to try it.  Think “mash up” instead of “baby food puree”!   Think chunky applesauce!



Parsnip and Pear Mash


4 ripe pears

4 medium sized parsnips

¼ cup honey

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Peel and slice the pears.  If you have over-ripe spots, use that too.  Scrub and slice the parsnips.  Cook the pears and parsnips and the sprigs of thyme with a cup of water in a crock pot.  Cook them on low for 6 – 8 hours.   Drain off the juice, but keep it for another purpose, and put the pears and parsnips in a food processor.  Blend to the consistency that you prefer.  If you like chunky applesauce, leave some chunks in this too! 

This can be frozen.  Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.  Serve it warm, room temperature or cold.   I plan to serve it at Christmastime!


This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable Project!  Click the menu to find similar posts.  I’ll be sharing with a couple blog parties, so click through the list on my sidebar!  Enjoy!

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