17 June 2012

17 June - Sow Your Swedes Today

Traditionally, this is the day to sow swedes.  But before you go looking for your Nordic neighbors, this is a swede:
swiped from Wikipedia

Aka swedish turnip or rutabaga (itself a Swedish word).

“A root vegetable which belongs to the Mustard family and is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and turnips.  Rutabaga is larger than the turnip, has smooth yellowish skin and flesh, and smooth leaves.  The flesh has a typical sweet flavor.  There are white varieties of rutabaga, but the yellow is the best known.”  Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery (1966), Vol. 10, p. 1574.

Rutabagas have been food for both man and beast for a couple of centuries.  Cattle love them, and in reasonable amounts, rutabagas, like turnips, are good for them.  They are a late crop, and keep well, so are good for feeding livestock over the winter.  However, one farmer says that turnips give cattle bad breath, so it's likely swedes will also.  Don't go getting friendly with the cows when they've been in the turnip patch.

Rutabagas are also good people food, and can be cooked in any way that turnips are cooked.  I like them mashed with onions, butter, and salt, myself, but they can also be boiled, fried, baked, pickled, and even eaten raw. 

So when your swedes show up, or you pick up one at the farmer’s market, try RUTABAGA AU GRATIN:

(For some reason, saying “first prepare your swede by washing it” sounds like a near occasion for sin, so I will stick with its Swedish name.)

First prepare your rutabaga by washing it well (it is a root vegetable after all); pare it, then cube it.  A nice sized rutabaga will produce about 4 cups cubed, which is what you need for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Bring a pot with 1 inch of salted water to a boil (a teaspoon of sugar improves the flavor as well), add the rutabaga, and cook, covered, until it is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Drain.  Put the cooked rutabaga in a shallow baking dish.

Shred sharp cheddar cheese to equal 1 cup.

In a saucepan, melt ¼ cup of butter; stir in ¼ cup of flour.  Gradually stir in 2 cups of milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the rutabaga.  Mix ½ cup of soft bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter; sprinkle them over the sauce.

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

(and never forget the rutabaga's champion, Les Nessman...)