Sunday, February 03, 2008

Turnip Chowder

When Graham is away, I find it difficult to eat balanced, proper meals, existing instead on bran muffins and cheese. There are many varieties of bran muffins and of course, the cheese variety is spellbounding.

I can go a long while before I get tired of this combination.

But it's been very cold for a very long time, it seems. The Arctic Front that has the province in its grasp won't let go and my bones take on the damp chill, becoming wooden and leaden.

It feels to me like it's time for some Chowder, and Turnips come to mind...the big Swede Turnip...the one with the strong, unmistakable Turnip taste.

My mother made a dish similar to this, and that is from where the inspiration for this Chowder comes. Her recipe was a side dish; however, I love Turnips so much I turned it into a Chowder. It's a terrific dish on a cold Winter's Day, both a seasonal and local vegetable.

Turnips are great for your friend Jackie writes about this vegetable here. The golden chunks of this vegetable in its broth is a picture of warmth and comfort. And it's time for both.

I begin by sauteing smoked turkey drumsticks or wings or hocks in a little olive oil, just for a couple of minutes. I add large chunks of smoked bacon, and render it all down. Then I add all the aromatics...onions and parsley and carrots and bay the meat in the stock pot. I usually use chicken broth to cover, adding pepper.

I let it simmer, uncovered, for a couple of hours. I tend the base of the Chowder, by adding liquids, either broth or Water, as it simmers down, tasting as I go.

It tastes as if it needs Horseradish, this stock I'm making. I add some, along with Apple Cider Vinegar...ahh, there it is, that pleasant sharp taste sensation at the back of the throat...the finish. I remove whatever meat and bones I've used, and the Bay leaves.

I add the Turnips, cut into large bite-sized chunks, lest they fall apart, to the broth. The pale yellow chunks soon turn golden, sending their unmistakable scent on the steam that rises from the bubbling liquid. More onions, carrots and Horseradish are added.

Any meat, which by now is completely falling off the bones, is diced and added to the Chowder. And then, chunks of whatever sausage I happen to have on hand are stirred into the golden brew, whose colour reminds me of Sun's golden, warm Rays...

I turn the heat to low. I dice a couple of Potatoes, ready to be added to the Chowder after the Turnip is almost done. And then I let the Turnips gently cook, melding the flavours together.

This recipe is always a midwinter one for me. Swedes don't have much flavour until they have had a bit of Frost, which intensifies and sweetens them.

I open the back door; Sun is high in the Sky. It is still cold out, but the rays of Sun remind me of the coming Spring, as they flood the interior of the mud room. The Dogs sprawl out in the Sunlight, loving the fleeting warmth of the Winter Sun. And the Turnip Chowder sends its aroma throughout the neighbourhood.

I go to the front garden. I have largely ignored it this Winter, having prepared it well in the Autumn. It does not take long for me to immerse myself in it, becoming oblivious to the World around me. The Hydrangeas need a bit of pruning; the Magnolia is budding and will soon bloom, by the looks of the fat buds. The Daffodils are showing green, strappy leaves...and yes, there is a bud or two braving the cold.

As I look at the Elder Tree, the one who came out of nowhere to grow against the house, I become aware of a couple of neighbours standing on the street, discussing neighbourly things. I wander over, as greetings are exchanged.

We discuss housing, a subject that has been mulled over since the For Sale sign appeared on my front Lawn. Both neighbours feel badly for me, they say, having to stay behind to sell the house...and who knew when it was going to sell? Houses don't sell quickly, especially in the middle of a Cold Snap.

I tell them the house sold, for all intents and purposes, last week. There are a few conditions to be met, which is why there is no Sold sign across the For Sale sign as yet.

There is silence. Each glance at the other. I laugh and say...It's true!

One of the elderly neighbours quickly remembers his manners and congratulates me; the other mulls over the conditions yet to be met in a negative manner and then grudgingly gives me his well-wishes.

I smile at him, understanding he would rather live in a world populated with Worries and Fear, than in one where he would be required to Open his Heart to Joy.

As we stand discussing the Sale, the smell of Turnip Chowder wafts and circles around our noses; one fellow's eyes light up and he says...Turnips! with awe. He lives alone, you see...

The other said...I hate Turnips! but his nose followed the seductive, homey, warm scent sent by the Chowder. He lives with his daughter.

I explained I had a craving for this particular Chowder this morning. I laughed as I told them how my Chowders, no matter what kind, always make enough to feed an army...and I offered them some, explaining potatoes had yet to be added, but it was done pretty much.

One fellow accepted eagerly; the other shrugged his shoulders and said...only a little, mind.

I went in and filled two earthenware soup plates, placed a dab of Horseradish in the centre, and added a spoon.

I gave it to them, hot and comforting, with golden steam, right there in the Sunlight.

This is very good, said one. It's not bad, said the other.

They wandered off to their homes, tasting as they went, taking the aroma of the Chowder further through the neighbourhood, for other taste buds to salivate at the scent of...Turnips!

I went in, to add the Potatoes and more Parsley and adjust the seasoning.

And as I prepared my Dinner, I wondered...would I think this Chowder was very good...or not bad...

I think it all depends on my point of view.


  1. Wow the house sold very quickly. Thats great no hanging around now. Nice to share your good fortune and chowder with old neighbours.

  2. My mouth watered the whole time I read about your chowder! I added ALL those things to my shopping list for next week!! *L* Thank you for your nice comment!

  3. My first thought was that I don't like turnips, and my second thought was that I don't ever remember tasting one. Must be a habit from childhood. You make it sound delicious. Maybe I can even find a neighbor to share it with since I have passed my food prejudices on to my family.

  4. In the South we ate a lot of turnip greens with ham hocks, but I have never had turnip chowder. I think I would have liked it. Anyway I am back on my South Beach Diet strict phase for two weeks and this sounds absolutely wonderful and comforting.

    You must miss Graham terribly.

  5. Reading about your wonderful chowder gave me the urge to make one myself. I could almost taste this great meal as I reread your ingredient list. What a great hot meal for the days of cold cold hours. Now I am off to the kitchen. Congrats on the sale.

  6. Davem,

    Yes, the Sold sign, barring unforeseen circumstances, should be placed tomorrow. I don't see my neighbours often, but over the years we have passed gossip and the time of day...I will miss them.


    Welcome! This Chowder lends itself to experimentation. The potatoes usually thicken the broth enough, but sometimes I'll use a thickener.

    I forgot to mention that!


    I mention how I love Turnips, and most people look at me as if I was really strange. Turnips and mustard is also a great combo...boil Turnips until tender, drain and serve with a Mustard Sauce. Yum!


    I love greens, using ham hocks...a German recipe I use is very similar to the Southern ones.

    I know it is only for a short while further before I move to the Cariboo; closing here is February 29. But I do miss him, and it is difficult at times.

    So far, we have no house in mind in Williams Lake.


    Thank you! I hope you enjoy the Chowder. Turnips are the main ingredient; creativity makes up the rest!

  7. Interesting sounding dish. Please telll me, what is the difference between a chowder and a soup? Is it just in the name?

    Congrats on the sale of the house.

  8. Okay.. you made me hungry for some of YOUR FOOD! Sounds delicious.

    My husband travels a lot too and I too lack motivation for cooking when he is gone!

    My meal of existence is grilled cheese and tomato soup! :-)

  9. Seventh,

    A chowder usually uses bacon, salt pork or hocks and is thickened, with large chunks of potatoes, etc... Think of a very thick soup, or a thin stew, whichever, lol!

    Whatever I call it, it is really good and filling and hot...which is always good in this chilly weather.

  10. I've tagged you, an effort to spread connection through the deserving blogs I know. Play if you'd like. Keep up the good work!


  11. Marion,

    This post belongs in "Turnip Chowder for the Soul." I couldn't stop smiling when I read about your neighbors.

    In the South, "turnip" is known as the green part of the plant (at least where I live, anyways). Granny would say, "Come to supper tonight - I'm fixin' a mess of turnips." All the young'uns loved greens - turnip, collards, mustard - and we'd eat seconds and thirds.

    We like turnip greens cooked with ham hocks (or whatever pork may be left over from Sunday dinner -- a ham bone, maybe?). The turnip root is usually diced up and cooked along with the greens, but not always.

    The green juice is called pot likker (pot liquor) and is a treat in itself, sopped up with cornbread or hoecake. Mmmmmm!

    When I was a child we'd eat raw turnip root, too. It wasn't bad.

    Loved your post!

    Miss T

  12. Thanks for the mention :)

    I love turnips. The cute baby ones available now are so nice just munched raw or lightly steamed and then like you like the big strong tasting ones in dishes like chowder and soup.