I hope you've brought your sense of adventure. Because today we are headed into murky territory. To be exact, we're making turnip pie. Still here? Good.
It wasn't my idea, I swear, but the nice ladies from the Eastham library convinced me, and now here we are. Turnips aren't the first winter vegetable to come to mind for pie; even I know that. But according to Geoffry Antoine, it can be done.
He created the recipe for the Eastham Turnip Festival several years ago. They host a turnip cook-off each fall, the only guideline being that the dish must include a turnip. He rolled out a piecrust, began boiling up a pot of Eastham's finest, and mixed and mashed until he found himself with a filling.
The ingredients were simple: eggs, sugar, cinnamon—salt and cloves and nutmeg, with a bit of heavy cream and a pinch of ginger at the end. It cooked like any other pie, for nearly an hour in an oven at first very hot, and then turned down for the duration.
It was so good, in fact, that it won the prize—not just any prize, mind you—but the Grand Prize. The women at the library didn't make it sound easy. Upon their insistence, I made the leap of faith in my kitchen last night. I thought of Geoffrey as I mixed—wondering what sort of a man the creator of turnip pie must be.
It was several hours before I found out. Between the boiling and the mashing and the rolling and the baking, I was just about exhausted when I finally picked up the spoon. But the fuss my tongue made! It began dancing and whooping, all lit up with cinnamon and root, bowing at the knees of the turnip. I still can't quite wrap my head around it, but I can promise you, that for some strange reason, you are bound to love turnip pie.
Prepare one 9-inch pie crust. Combine 3 eggs, slightly beaten, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ginger. Add 1 cup heavy cream and beat well. Blend in 15 ounces Eastham turnip, cooked and mashed. Pour into pan lined with crust. Bake in oven heated to 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40 to 45 minutes. The pie is done when knife inserted into center comes out clean.
*Geoffrey Antoine's recipe, Grand Prize Winner of the 2006 Turnip Festival, reprinted from First Encounter with a Turnip, a collection of recipes from the Friends of the Eastham Public Library.
A photo from the book Images of America: Eastham taken in 1928, when a special turnip harvest took place. George Nickerson, a longtime Eastham grower, was in the hospital during pulling time, so the whole town came to help. By the end of the day, they'd pulled 1,400 bushels for market. Not bad for a days work!