Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rutabagas: To Know Them is To Love Them

There are a few foods that I never ate until I married a native son of Macon, Georgia. For starters, I thought that pimento cheese was the regurgitated neon glop sold in small tubs by the luncheon meat at the supermarket. I changed my mind when I tasted my mother-in-law's homemade minner (as DH calls it) spread on whole wheat bread, a revelation, some might say. Served with fried chicken in Macon. I don't know why, but I'll eat it.
I never even considered rutabagas until married life, either. For the uninitiated, they are large yellow-ish turnips, found in the produce department near cabbages and root vegetables. They have a thick wax coating and a tough exterior that requires serious prep work, but after that, cooking is a breeze and the cook is rewarded with an earthy side dish, perfect with ham and greens and steaming skillet of buttermilk cornbread.
We usually eat rutabagas (or root-a-beggers, according to DH) in the winter, and they're always served at Thanksgiving. But this week, the produce department had a bag of three enormous rutabagas for $1. That's right, UNO. Chump change. Cheap eats. Just add water and pork seasoning, and bob's your uncle, a tasty, homecooked, el cheapo dinner is on the table. And here is how I did it:
(Above) A sharp knife is needed to cut through the thick, waxed skin.

(Above) Employing the nearest hammer-like implement to separate the halves.

(Above) Cubes simmering in salted pork stock.

(Above) Earthy, golden goodness.

Rutabagas Cooked in Pork Stock
1. Fill a large pot with water and add pork seasoning, country ham scraps, or smoked turkey parts. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.
2. Using a sharp knife and possibly a rubber mallet or hammer, peel and cube the rutabagas.
3. Carefully place the rutabagas in the boiling water, add a moderate amount of salt - be careful, this will cook down and you will greatly regret excessive salt. Let the vegetables come to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least an hour. The whitish raw rutabaga turns yellow-orange as it cooks. The rutabagas are done when they are soft, very much like a non-starchy boiled potato.
4. They need just a bit of pepper to taste, and pepper vinegar or hot sauce may be required. Prepare to add another vegetable to your "like" list.

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