Rutabaga is often cooked in Ireland. Have you ever wondered how to peel and cut a rutabaga?
Preparing a rutabaga for cooking can be a daunting task for the cook who has never handled one of these thick-skinned vegetables before.
Known as a swede or a turnip in Ireland, the purplish-yellow rutabaga skin is hard and let’s be honest, it’s pretty ugly looking.
But rest assured, hiding beneath this tough exterior is a delicious, sweet and peppery vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene and low in calories.
Once you know what you’re doing, peeling and slicing one of these big tubers is really quite simple.
Before you know it you’ll be slicing and dicing rutabagas and tossing them in to anything that calls for root vegetables.
Table of Contents
- A Sweet and Earthy Vegetable
- Step-by-Step Tutorial On How To Prepare a Rutabaga For Cooking
- A Gassy Warning
- How To Tutorial Card
- Favorite Rutabaga Recipes
A Sweet and Earthy Vegetable
I think rutabagas are some of the most underrated veggies on the planet, especially in the United States.
I think the woody looking exterior puts many people off. But trust me, underneath you’ll find a butter-yellow flesh that is sweet and earthy when cooked. It adds so much flavor to soups and stews. They can even be used to make a healthier version of french fries.
They’re considered to be part of the cruciferous family of vegetables. The official group they belong to is called brassica napus. Brussels sprouts belong to the brassica oleracea family.
The tale behind their origins tells how some wild turnips crossed with wild cabbages way back in the 1600’s and the resulting vegetable was the rutabaga, or swede as it is called in part of the world.
They’re a first cousin of broccoli and Brussels sprouts, so they’re packed full of wonderful nutritional benefits including vitamin C, minerals, magnesium, potassium, phosophorus, manganese, calcium, antioxidants and oodles of fibre. It also has no trans fat or cholesterol (unless of course you add butter when you cook it.)
Mashed rutabagas are a favorite side dish in Ireland, and are often served with turkey by Irish Americans at Thanksgiving. They’re wonderful served with ham, bacon, corned beef, chicken, lamb or pork.
Did you know that root vegetables including rutabagas can help you stay healthy? They play a very important role in protecting your immune system and organs from the dangers of free radicals, helping to prevent cancer. Many underestimate the health benefits of rutabaga.
Rutabagas have very important nutritional compounds called glucosinolates, which contain sulfur. It is this substance that helps to fight cancer. It also gives cruciferous vegetables their distinctive flavor.
They’re are also said to be a good relief for constipation, help to reduce blood pressure, protect against stroke and kidney stones, and stimulate the immune system to produce white blood cells. That’s quite a helpful nutritional profile for one overlooked veggie.
Some like this unique flavor, some do not. However, I advise you to give it a try, and possibly add a little sugar to help make it more palatable.
Step-by-Step Tutorial On How To Prepare a Rutabaga For Cooking
Cooking a rutabaga is not as difficult as you might thing. The most difficult part is removing the inedible skin. Here’s how to easily accomplish this somewhat daunting task.
Step 1: Washing and Preparing the Rutabaga
Wash the outside of the rutabaga to remove any dirt. Most American rutabagas are covered in a waxy film, so the dirt is usually removed before the application of this coating.
In Ireland and other countries the exterior is uncoated and it’s important to remove any dirt before slicing.
Here’s a quick kitchen hack for making it a little easier to slice through this hard root vegetable. You can pop the unpeeled turnip or rutabaga into the microwave.
Simply prick the skin of the rutabaga with a fork, then wrap it in paper towels and place it in the microwave. Cook it on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Then remove it and let it cool slightly before continuing the preparation as follows.
Step 2: Slicing the Rutabaga into Two Halves
Place the rutabaga on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the vegetable in half. I like to cut through the central stalk, to create two halves that are easy to lay flat on the cutting board.
This first cut is the most difficult and riskiest of all, since the oval surface of the tuber makes it difficult to stabilize for cutting. Take extra care, to ensure your knife does not slip.
Step 3: Creating Easy To Peel Semi-circles of Rutabaga
Turn each half onto its flat side, then cut it into ½ inch thick semi-circles.
Throw away the first and last piece which are covered in thicker skin. I slice these end pieces as thinly as possible to avoid wasting too much of the lovely butter yellow flesh.
Step 4: Peeling the Rutabaga
Use a paring knife to remove the outer skin of each semi-circular piece.
This method is much easier than trying to peel a rutabaga with a potato peeler – really a mission impossible.
You might manage to use a potato peeler on an unwaxed rutabaga, but if yours is waxed there’s no hope of removing the skin with a vegetable peeler.
Step 5: Dicing a Rutabaga
Next, lay each piece flat and cut into 1-inch slices.
Turn the strips and cut again to create one inch cubes. You can dice the slices as small as you wish. The smaller the pieces the faster the rutabaga will cook.
Step 6: Storing Before Cooking
Cover the diced rutabaga with lightly salted water until ready to cook with it.
Many cooks like to prepare their veggies the night before Thanksgiving. If you do this it’s important to add a little salt to the water that you use to cover the diced rutabaga.
If you use unsalted water, some of the liquid in the vegetable will leach into the water. This is all due to the science of osmosis where liquids move from a higher to a lower concentration. A little salt in the water will keep your rutabaga tasting better the next day.
And there you have it, a simple method for peeling and cubing a rutabaga or turnip, a technique I learned from my Irish mother.
Here’s my complete recipe on how to cook a rutabaga Irish style.
Take a look at the comments on this post. It’s one of the most popular recipes on my blog.
You’ll find tips galore for cooking rutabaga. Some readers add onion, garlic, mustard, butter, or dill for flavor. Some add carrot for color. Parsnip or cauliflower is also another great vegetable pairing for mashed rutabaga. Simply mash either cooked veggie with the cooked rutabaga.
Some toss in brown sugar for some extra sweetness and some add a little honey. I love to add a little sour cream for better consistency and a little tanginess.
A Gassy Warning
Here’s a littlw warning about eating rutabagas. They contain a substance called raffinose, which is a complex sugar. Methane-producing bacteria in the colon love these sugars and as they feed on raffinose, they release methane gas.
This means that rutabaga is a gassy food for some people. This can cause abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence. There’s an old wives tale about cooking rutabagas for a long time to reduce this effect.
But it does not work. If you’re prone to gas after rutabagas, you may need to look at other means to combat it like increasing your probiotic intake. ‘
Just a word of warning from one Irish cook to all the rutabaga lovers out there.
How To Tutorial Card
Here’s a printable tutorial card for your kitchen files.
How to Peel and Cut a Rutabaga
- 1 whole rutabaga
- Wash the outside of the rutabaga to remove any dirt. Prick the skin of the rutabaga with a fork. Wrap it in paper towels and place it in the microwave. Cook it on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Then remove it and let it cool slightly before continuing the preparation as follows.
- Place the rutabaga on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the vegetable in half, through the central stalk.
- Turn each half onto its flat side, then cut it into ½ inch thick semi-circles. Throw away the first and last piece which are covered in thicker skin. Slice these end pieces as thinly as possible to avoid wasting rutabaga flesh.
- Use a paring knife to remove the outer skin of each semi-circular piece.
- Next, lay each piece flat and cut into 1-inch slices. Turn the strips and cut again to create one inch cubes. You can dice the slices as small as you wish for your favorite recipe.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Favorite Rutabaga Recipes
Here are some of my favorite rutabaga recipes and ramblings.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad –Irish American Mom
Pronunciation – slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad – rhymes with parade
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