Rutabagas and carrots make a comforting, slightly sweet soup. The combination of deep orange carrots and pale yellow rutabaga flesh, produces an amber colored soup, just perfect for fall.
And so, to kick off my soup making recipes for this autumn season, I thought it might be a good idea to start with a simple, easy-to-make soup, using the rutabaga, a root vegetable I believe is not fully appreciated in America.
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The Many Names for Rutabaga
What you call a rutabaga depends on your location on the globe. There are many names to choose from including turnips, swede, or neeps.
So firstly, let's name this soup correctly....
Is it rutabaga and carrot soup?
Swede and carrot?
Turnip and carrot? or....
Neeps and carrot soup?
Well, the answer depends on where you live in the world, and since most of my readers are living in America, I'm naming it "rutabaga and carrot" soup.
"Rutabaga" is the common American and Canadian term for this yellow root we plan to turn into soup. The name comes from the Swedish word Rotabagge, which apparently means "root bag". This vegetable has also been called "yellow turnip" on the western shores of the Atlantic.
In other parts of the English speaking world, "swede" is the preferred term, because it is in fact a Swedish turnip. The name swede, for short, was adopted in England, where a true turnip has whiter flesh, and is about the size of a tennis ball. But for some strange reason the English swede and the American rutabaga is always referred to as a turnip in Ireland.
Now to confuse matters further, said vegetable is sometimes referred to as "neeps" in Scotland. Like the Irish, Scottish people call the swede a turnip, and neeps is a derivation of the term "new turnips". So when you're throwing together some "neeps and haggis" reach for a rutabaga, not those wee things English people and Americans call turnips.
A Little Irish Turnip History
The turnip features prominently in the annals of Irish history during the time of the Great Hunger (1845-1850).
"They were to the starving ones supposed to be a "God-send," and were eaten with great avidity, both cooked and raw."
from Annals Of The Famine In Ireland - Chapter VI (2)1851 by Asenath Nicholson
Fire was a scarce commodity for many of the poor during these hungry years, since they were too weak to cut and harvest turf. Therefore, they cooked only the turnip greens, while the tuber was eaten raw.
But turnips were not as nutritious as the potato, and had to be eaten in great bulk to sustain life. However, those who were sick and dying were offered turnips to eat ......
......."not because of its nutrition, but because of the absence of it, not having sufficient to injure the weakest body."
from Annals Of The Famine In Ireland - Chapter VI (2) 1851 by Asenath Nicholson
During the famine years, growing turnips was advocated as an alternative to potatoes, and ever since the lowly vegetable has been cultivated extensively in Ireland.
Turnips - The Original Jack-O-Lanterns
Originally Jack-O-Lanterns were created in Ireland and Scotland by chiseling out a turnip or rutabaga, and placing hot embers or coals inside. The light represented the souls of the dead, and was used to ward off “Stingy Jack,” a notorious fellow who made a deal with the devil.
When the Irish came across the waters to the United States they started to make Jack O’Lanterns at Halloween, replacing the Irish turnip with the more plentiful American pumpkin. Artistically inclined carvers started to create faces on larger pumpkins, which were far easier to pulp than the old rock-hard turnips of their homeland.
And finally, after all that rambling, here's my soup recipe ....
Ingredients for Rutabaga and Carrot Soup
Here's a quick look at what you'll need for this soup. Exact quantities can be found in the printable recipe at the bottom of this post. You can choose between US and Metric measurements.
- rutabaga diced
- carrots sliced
- onion, chopped
- vegetable or chicken stock
- black pepper
- salt to season
- fresh whipping cream
This is a very simple soup so there are plenty of ways to alter the ingredients to jazz it up a little bit.
You could add some bacon to the stock when the soup is simmering, if you are not concerned about keeping it vegetarian.
Bay leaves can be added for extra depth of flavor and removed before serving the soup.
I use melted butter to coat the chopped vegetables before sweating them, but you could use olive oil instead for a lighter version.
Chicken broth can be sugstituted with vegetable broth for a veggie version of this soup.
Heavy cream or whole milk can be used to create a creamier soup. For vegans, coconut milk could be substituted.
This soup recipe can be made using butternut squash or sweet potato instead of the rutabaga, or you could substitute half the rutabaga with one of these root vegetables.
Directions for Carrot and Rutabaga Soup
Peeling and chopping a rutabaga is simpler than it might seem. My step-by-step rutabaga handling instructions on how to peel a rutabaga will be helpful if you've never tackled this veggie before..
Melt the butter in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the carrots, turnips and onion, stirring them well to completely coat them in butter.
Cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes to soften them. Shake the pan every 3 minutes to prevent any sticking, but resist the temptation to lift the lid. Trapping the steam in the pot is key to building up a good vegetable sweat for fork-tender veggie cubes.
Add the stock and season well with salt and pepper. I like plenty of freshly ground black pepper in this soup.
Making a Smooth Soup
Bring the soup to boiling point, lower the heat. then cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are nice and tender. It's important to simmer this soup slowly rather than cooking it over a rolling boil.
Turn the heat off and let the soup cool a little before blending it.
I use my hand held blender to blitz the vegetables, but a regular stand-up blender can also be used.
Complete the process in batches if using a regular blender.
And finally, add the cream. This step is optional, but I love the extra depth of flavor cream lends to this soup.
You can add the cream in the pot and blitz the soup again, or do as I do, and add a spoon of cream to each bowl before serving.
Storage Tips for Rutabaga Soup
This soup will keep for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you plan to freeze this soup, then do so before adding the cream. Allow the soup to cool completely before adding it to an airtight container. Freeze it for up to three months.
Remove from the freezer in advance of when you are ready to serve it. I like to defrost it overnight in the fridge. Reheat over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the cream and stir through completely before serving.
Here's a short video in praise of the turnip...
Here's the printable recipe card.
Rutabaga and Carrot Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium rutabaga peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots
- 1 large onion peeled and chopped
- 6 cups chicken stock use vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- Melt the butter in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the carrots, turnips and onion, stirring them well to completely coat them in butter.
- Cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes to soften them.
- Add the stock and season well with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to boiling point, lower the heat, then cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and let the soup cool a little before blending it.
- Add the cream and stir into the soup. Serve warm.
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.
This soup is a tribute to the humble rutabaga. I love it's uniquely sweet and peppery flavors.
Happy soup making!
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
Here are some more recipes and ramblings you might enjoy....