Yesterdays recipe for mock oysters made with parsnips made me realise that parsnips, overall, are as useful as turnips. To prove it, I give you a selection of things to make when life gives you parsnips in abundance.
Parsnep and Other Vegetable Bread.
Many vegetables may be used in part for making bread, but it is only in cases of real need that such an expedient is recommended. When corn [wheat] is unusually dear, the produce of a kitchen garden or of an allotment ground will serve, in combination with it, to furnish wholesome bread but with the exception of potatoes and the seed of the French bean, all vegetables will impart their peculiar flavour to it, though their presence may not otherwise be perceptible. Parsneps, Swedish turnips, and beet-root will all answer for dough (parsneps the best of any) if boiled tender, mashed to a smooth pulp*, and stirred in a saucepan over a gentle fire until tolerably dry, and left to become cool before they are mixed with flour or meal for the purpose.
*The beet-root, which may also be baked, must be grated.
The English Bread Book, Eliza Acton, 1857
Boil your parsnips till perfectly soft; pass them through a colander. To one tea cupful of mashed parsnip add one quart of warm milk, with a quarter of a pound of butter dissolved in it, a little salt, and one gill of yeast with flour enough to make a thick batter. Set it away to rise, which will require several hours. When light, stir in as much flour as will make a dough; knead it well and let it rise again. Make it out in cakes about a quarter or half an inch thick; butter your tins or pans, put them on and set them to rise. As soon as they are light bake them in a very hot oven. When done wash over the tops with a little water and send them to the table hot. These biscuits do not taste of the parsnips.
The National Cook Book by Martha Read, 1866
Parsnip Fritters (also called Parsnip Cakes)
Mix two cups mashed cooked parsnips with one beaten egg and one teasp. Flour. Season to taste. Shape into patties and sauté slowly on both sides in hot fat.
[elsewhere in the book the author suggests serving a poached egg on each parsnip cake}
How to Be Well: A Health Handbook and Cookbook Based on the Newer Knowledge, L and J Widsoe, 1943
Wine made of parsnip roots approaches nearer to the Malmsey of Madeira and the Canaries than any other wine; it is made with little expense or trouble, and only requires to be kept a few years to make it as agreeable to the palate as it is wholesome to the body; yet fashion induces us to give pounds for foreign wine, when we can obtain excellent wines of our own country for as many shillings.
To every 4 lbs of parsnips, clean and quartered, put one gallon of water; boil them till they are quite tender, drain them through a sieve, but do not bruise them, as no remedy would cure them afterwards. Pour the liquor into a tub, and to each gallon add 3 lbs. of loaf sugar and half an ounce of crude tartar. When cooled to the temperature of 75 degs, put in a little new yeast: let it stand for four days in a warm room, then turn it. The mixture should, if possible, be fermented in a temperature of 60 degs. September and March are best seasons for making the wine. When the fermentation has subsided, bung down the cask, and let the wine stand at least twelve months before bottling.
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Vol. 6, by Thomas Byerly, John Timbs (1825)
Dissolve over a gentle fire, four ounces and a half of good butter, in a wide stewpan or saucepan, and slice in directly two pounds of sweet tender parsneps; let them stew very softly until all are tender, then pour in gradually sufficient veal stock or good broth to cover them, and boil the whole slowly from twenty minutes to half an hour; press it with a wooden spoon through a fine sieve, add as much stock as will make two quarts in all, season the soup with salt and white pepper, or cayenne, give it one boil, skim and serve it very hot.
Send pale fried sippets to table with it.
Butter 4 ½ ozs; parsneps 2 lbs: ¾ hour or more. Stock 1 quart; 20 to 30 minutes; 1 full quart more of stock; pepper, salt: 1 minute.
Obs. We can particularly recommend this soup to those who like the peculiar flavour of the vegetable
Modern Cookery in All its Branches, Eliza Acton, 1845.
Mash boiled parsneps and potatoes and chop boiled pork fine. Allow three parts of parsneps and two of potatoes, to one of pork; season with pepper and salt; make them into balls, flat them, and brown on the griddle.
American Agriculturalist, Vol. 20 (1861)
Parsneps boiled and the water squeezed from them, four ounces; yolks of eggs two; breadcrumbs four ounces; a little cream. Mash the parsneps well, and add the other ingredients. Make the mixture sweet or savoury as may be desired; beat the whole well together; line a dish with paste, and bake in a moderate oven. Creed rice or rice flour may also be added.
The Principles and Practice of Vegetarian Cookery, John Smith, 1860.
Quotation for the Day.
For ....we can make liquor to sweeten our lips, Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
I used some leftover parsnip up a bit like the cakes above, but to make Scottish farls instead of potato. Worked a treat.
I like the sound of the fritters, I think the soft yolk would be the perfect touch!
Mrs Grigson, who had a soft spot for them, turned me on to parsnips & taught me that their Russian name is Pasternak. Her curried parsnip soup turned out to be excellent chilled - better, to my taste, than hot.
A "Vicar of Dibley" 'funny' about Letitia Cropley's parsnip brownies led me to make a batch. I ran down a few "carrot brownie" recipes on the internet and substituted grated parsnip in a recipe that looked promising. Worked pretty well. Took a batch into work; kept quiet about what was in them, and a plate-full vanished very quickly.
I can remember clearly my first awareness of parsnips - just roasted, but incredibly sweet I thought they had been soaked in sugar. I am definitely going to use more of them, now I have this nice collection of historical recipes. I like the ideas of substituting for potato and carrot in farls and brownies too!
From the depths of my memory I recall, and probably misrecall, a story from the Yorkshire Wolds.
During WW2 the villagers of, I think, Fridaythorpe were reluctant to deny their children the pleasure of bananas, although none of the genuine fruit was available, so they combined ingenuity with culinary skill to sculpt the faux-fruit from cooked parsnips, and sweetened and flavoured them as best they could with ingredients to hand.
In this way children who had never known the real thing were able to enjoy the pleasure of eating, if not unzipping bananas.
Eventually at the end of the war, the day arrived when a sailor returned from the West Indies and brought with him a hand of genuine bananas. A dinner was hastily arranged for the children of the village, culminating in the unveiling of the long-awaited fruit. Faced with this almost mythical food, with one voice the children demanded the return of their parsnips.
I hope the story is true.
tea-sing: I have heard variations of this story before, and keep meaning to follow it up. The versions I have heard mostly involve mashed turnip or parsnips mixed with banana essence and used to make 'banana' sandwiches. I will try to find out some information - watch out for another post!
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