Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cold Enough to Kill a Hog

This weekend the temperatures dropped into single digits at night. It's the kind of weather for hog killings in the mountains. And that's just what my friends Julie & Shawn did this weekend. Now, I am for the most part vegetarian, because I could never bring myself to kill an animal. Except for fish. So I don't refrain from eating them. (Although I still fill a bit sad about it sometimes. I'm a sentimental wimp.)

Even though I couldn't stomach the actual killing of the poor pigs (there were two), I do appreciate the big social gathering that is a hog killing. I deciding to pitch in by bringing some of the last of the garden goodies to help feed all the folks who gathering to help with the butchering, etc.

I must say that turnips are now giving beets a run for their money in my book. Just like beets, they are simply beautiful to look at. They are the kind of vegetable that is deserving of a still life painting or a portrait. The white bulbous root, braised with a magenta-pink and topped with curled, dark green leaves. The pleasure you get from admiring this plant is almost equal to the pleasure you can get from eating it!

I brought two kinds of turnip greens to the hog killing. Actually, I did a mix of turnip and curly mustard greens. One dish was vegetarian, the other seasoned with andouille sausage from Eunice, Louisiana. The trick to cooking really good, southern-style greens is to really cook them for a long time. Here's what I do (for the veggie-version, just don't use sausage):

*Rinse greens well, roughly chop them and put in a large pot with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat just enough to continue boiling; stir occasionally.
* In a skillet, sauté onion, garlic and andoille until browned. Add to greens.
* Add salt, black pepper, Tony Chachere's seasoning, a dash or two of cayenne pepper and a few dashes of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (your can substitute Tamari or Soy sauce) and let simmer for a hour or more.

In my book, greens taste best when they nearly melt in your mouth. My mom insists (as do I) that you should never disregard the juices when eating greens, because, that's where the best flavor and the nutrients are. It's called pot-likker, and there is no shame in licking the remains of a good pot of greens! A great way to enjoy greens is to eat them with the other half of the plant... turnips! Mashed turnips are sort of like mashed potatoes, but better. And they are perfect for soaking up the juices from your greens, especially when they are partnered with cornbread. Here's the way I like to fix turnips:

*Clean and peel turnip roots. I don't typically peel the entire turnip, but just peel off the stringy root parts. Chop into large cubes.
*Clean, peel and cube one or two small potatoes (yellow or gold). I recommend using one small potato for every four or five medium to large turnips (a large turnip is about the size of a baseball). You want a lot more turnips than potatos.
* Put turnips and potatoes in a saucepan with water, a dash of olive oil and salt and boil until soft
*Peel and chop garlic to your liking (I like a lot)
*Drain turnips/potatoes and mix together with butter (for Vegan, use Earth Balance or a butter substitute), garlic and a little salt to taste. I prefer to use a mixer, but you can do this easily by hand.

If you've never given turnips a chance, try cooking them like this. I think it just may convert you to the cult of turnip-love. I can happily say that I belong to this cult, in addition, of course to being a member of the church of beet-love.

Note to self: Next year, quadruple the amount of beets and turnips in garden. I'm talking early spring and fall crops, both more than twice the amount I grew this year!