This is not a refrigerator story. It’s a tribute to the dead mutant pumpkin on our front porch …
…and a reflection on why white blobs embalmed in red liquid creep me out.The dead mutant is one of three giant pumpkins produced in the garden this year, grown from giant pumpkin seeds. One of them–a white pumpkin– cracked and had to be cooked immediately. As a result, I have many little bags of white pumpkin puree in the freezer. The dead mutant is number two, not quite making it until Halloween and definitely not making it into any pies. The fate of the third and Greatest Mutant Pumpkin is yet to be determined.
Now, as for the white blobs embalmed in red liquid…they are pickled turnips. This is so completely not on my list of anything I have aspired to eat. When Pioneer Man laid out his fall garden to include rows of turnips, I rolled my eyes. I do not eat turnips. I have never bought turnips. But God, with His Ultimate Sense of Humor, blessed the turnips above all other plants in the garden. We have a bumper crop of turnips.
Pioneer Man is thrilled.
I am trying to overcome my childhood aversion to turnips.
I wasn’t traumatized by turnips, per se. It’s just that my exposure to turnips came when a well-meaning adult—probably my paternal grandmother because I don’t recall my mother ever buying turnips– would hide them in a meal with the potatoes. Cooked turnips, mashed, can hide with the potatoes, but they don’t taste like potatoes. It’s a nasty trick. The innocent child-mouth anticipates the creamy buttery goodness of mashed potatoes but is assaulted instead with the zippy tang of turnip. It’s like telling your mouth you’re eating ice cream but tasting yogurt instead.
Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the flavor of a turnip. I have to. Pioneer Man keeps cooking them. And they are tasty. They have a zing reminiscent of radish and horse-radish. I love radish and horseradish. Tell my mouth to prepare for that zip and I’m all with you. But my childhood memory is still crying, “gack!”
Pickled turnips present their own problems. They are pickled with a beet. The beet turns the brine red. When the red brine turns the white turnip red, the pickling is complete. Yeah, see, it’s the pickled beet thing. And I am going to blame my mother for this one.
My mother was pregnant most of my childhood and she had her food cravings like any pregnant woman. To this day, I’m not sure if my memories of what she ate back then reflected actual food preferences or pregnancy cravings. At any rate, I have distinct memories of pickled beets and cottage cheese. And the beet juice running around the plate dyeing the cottage cheese a bloody red. Who, besides my mother, wants to eat bloody cottage cheese?
I finally discovered the pleasure of fresh beets through a food co-op. I never realized how wonderfully sweet beets are. Ok, ok, I know they are sugar beets, but I didn’t believe it. There is so little correlation in my mind between sugar beet and the thing on the plate with the bloody cottage cheese.
So now my husband is offering Wife I Am pickled turnips in beet brine.
I will not eat them from that jar,
I will not eat them near or far,
I will not eat them here or there,
I will not eat them anywhere!
With trepidation, I taste one.
And, just like Sam I Am, I discover that they are good! They would be a tasty appetizer with the oysters and sausages at Thanksgiving! And I can see how fresh turnips would provide a nice zip to mashed potatoes…
But I promise–traditional mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.
Here’s how Pioneer Man pickled his turnips, based on how old buddy Sam Wahbe’s mother used to make hers:
- Fill 4 quart jars with peeled, sliced raw turnips
- Add a couple of whole jalepenos to each jar…pierced with a fork
- Add 1/4 of a raw beet to each jar
- Fill each jar with brine. Pioneer Man used 3.5 cups water, 1.25 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 T. sea salt.
- Put lids on jars and let sit until the white turnips turn red, a couple of days.
- Then enjoy and try to convince another family member to try them, too.