Turnips, Root Beer and Evolution

We’re currently serving turnips in a few different dishes. Yesterday, after boiling a batch, I drank some of the leftover cooking water. It had that earthy, somewhat horseradish-like, yet slightly sweet taste. It was a bit weak, but that could be fixed with some reduction and a touch of salt. So, what would work with this? What about root beer.

I put some Mug Root Beer in a pan and gently heated it to reduce it a bit, as well as kill the carbonation. Then I combined an equal volume of the root beer and the turnip water, added a touch of salt and some mulling spices. The mixture was put on a back burner to reduce. The mixture was reduced by about 75%. I stopped when it was at the taste strength I liked. Then I had to figure out what to do with it.

One of my favorite quick recipes is this Microwave Lemon Curd. I first found this recipe in an Ideas in Food post a few years ago. Its an easy recipe to memorize and can be made in under 10 minutes. What if you just swapped out the lemon juice with the Mulled Root Beer/Turnip Water Reduction? Let’s see. I followed the recipe, though there was a textural difference due to the soda having a drastically higher sugar content than lemon juice. Also, the eggs began to cook up differently. The textural issue was fixed by putting the cooked curd in a quart container, blending it with a stick blender and pushing it through a fine mesh strainer. When it cooled, it set up much more like a caramel than a curd, even though it had egg in it.  No worries. We had just made a Mulled Root Beer & Turnip Caramel, which tasted like gingerbread. Our intent is to use it with our Parsnip Cake.

Some additional thoughts: could you cook turnips in root beer? How much flavor would they absorb? What would the cooking liquid taste like? Would it help us skip a whole bunch of steps? What else could you use the turnip water for? What about ice cubes for an earthy cocktail, maybe with Akavit? We did mix some of the reduced turnip water with an equal portion of honey (by weight) to make a syrup. Some days, it just takes 1 thing to get the ball rolling.

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Chris Spear

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