Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash

Have you been introduced to the Jerusalem artichoke?  No?

How do you do? 

I know it doesn’t look like much.  In fact, it’s neither an artichoke nor is it from Jerusalem.  They’re a tuber at the base of a variety of sunflower, but don’t let their knobby texture fool you into thinking they’re tough and tasteless: the Jerusalem artichoke (or “sunchoke”) is a tender tuber that (I think) tastes like nuts would, if nuts were vegetables.

My parents plant Jerusalem artichokes in their driveway, because the tall leafy greens provide a nice screen between their house and the garbage-strewn front lawn of our hoarding neighbour.  Plus you don’t have to harvest them until mid-fall, so the screen stays up extra long.

This is what they look like after they’ve been pulled from the ground and separated from their stems.

First you separate all the little tiny ones and store them in your garage to replant in the spring.

Then you take the ones you want to eat and scrub them silly.  We’re going to do a little feature on Jerusalem artichokes this week, so we have plenty to go through.  Many recipes call for peeling these things, but I never bother.  The skin is where all the vitamins are, after all, and I can only imagine that peeling them is an exercise in insanity.

For today’s recipe, take a pound of the ‘chokes, and a pound of your potato of choice.

Remove all the roots and knobby bits from the artichokes.  Chop them and the potatoes up into 1″ pieces and chuck them in a pot.

Boil them until very tender.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.

Mash them up with a little butter and some of the reserved cooking liquid until they are thick and moist.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.  TADA.

Bashed Neeps with a little Sweet Potato

Behold the lowly, plebeian turnip.  If you were my Scottish great-grandfather you’d call them neeps.  The vegetable of the working class.  Nubbly root vegetables that overwinter remarkably well.  Tasty tubers.

You get the idea.

I’m fond of turnips.  Rutabaga as well.  They’re a little yellower, bigger, and stronger tasting than a turnip.

Thanksgiving is all about the harvest vegetables, and the turnip is a traditional addition.

I used 4 medium-sized turnips.  (And 2 large apples.  No picture of those sadly.)

Peel them with a sharp knife and cut them into cubes.

Chuck them in a pot with a pinch or two (or five) of cinnamon and enough water to cover.

Cover and simmer them until very tender, about an hour, maybe more.

Drain and mash with butter and a dash of maple syrup.

You can serve it as is, but this time we felt that the turnips were a little bland.

We peeled and cubed a single large sweet potato and boiled that up as well until it was tender.

Mash that sucker in with the turnip after you’re done your boiling.

Add a spoonful of ginger, as well as some nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.

You can also freeze this stuff for thawing and reheating later.  It saves time on the big day.

Using a Canner

You may or may not find this particular post interesting, but if you like to make your own jam then you should hear about this ancient invention my mother and I have just discovered called a canner.

When I was a kid we used to make jams and pickles all the time, and we would get the jars to seal by baking them in the oven and relying on the laws of physics as the jars cooled to do the rest.

But with this canning gizmo you can ensure that all your jars pop, every time.  And actually, Vicious Sweet Tooth pre-empted me on this one and was featured in Freshly Pressed.  I am totally trying her vanilla and nectarine preserves.

So you boil your lids as usual.But instead of sterilizing your jars and heating them in the oven you can do both steps at once in the canner.  It’s basically an enormous pot full of water, and the jars sit in a handy little cage you can lift out by the handles.So you boil those, and while they’re doing their thing you work on your jam.

Bring your goo to a boil.  In this case we’re making grape jam.  Once it’s boiling you add your sugar and pectin and make it go all foamy and thick.Once you remove it from the heat you scrape off all the foam.  You can eat it.  It’s yummy.So when it’s ready for canning, you pull your jars out of the water and drain them.Fill the jars with your jam up to 1/2″ from the top of the jar.Clean off the tops of the jars.  They have to be super clean.  Be careful not to burn yourself.Put on the lids and tighten them so they’re “fingertip tight” — this means that they are on but not tightened as far as they can go.Then you pop them back in the canner and bring the water to a boil once again.  Leave ’em about five minutes.Then you bring them out, and as soon as they cool a little bit, hey presto — POP.

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