How to roast root vegetables

How did our ancestors from the Northeast and Midwest eat in the winter when there was no refrigerator or fresh food in the garden?

In fact, they had many refrigerators outside their doors, in root cellars they built to store food in a more or less temperature-controlled environment. Ten feet below the ground, the temperature is a constant 50 degrees in winter. Throughout the northern states, you can find root cellars built in the 18th century on farms. A sloping doorway, usually about 10 feet by 15 feet, opened for steps leading to a chamber with a vaulted stone ceiling.

Concrete trays filled with water on the sides. Metal milk cans filled with the day’s milk, ready to make butter or cheese, were kept in water, keeping the milk cool. Heads of cabbage are left on their stalks and hung upside down from the ceiling. Alternatively, cabbage is chopped to make sauerkraut, which keeps well in a bowl of salted water. A summer cucumber turned into a winter pickle. The fruits are cut and tied on strings for drying. Apples are made into sauce, canned or cooked in apple butter. Grapes were squeezed and wine was made. Ham and bacon are salted and smoked.

The remaining space of the root cellar was taken up with apple barrels and, most importantly, with root crops. Barrels of potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, shallots, turnips, parsnips, and more. was. He braided onions and garlic and hung them.

Here in Sonoma County, many root crops can stay in the ground through the winter and be dug up when needed. During the relatively mild winters of the Mediterranean climate, a root cellar is not necessary when carrots and beets, potatoes and parsnips, turnips and rutabagas are stored in the garden.

One way to visit the tables of our ancestors is to recreate the main dish in their delicious dishes. Two hundred years ago, most of them were farms. They worked hard and needed a lot of nutritious food to keep up their energy. They would eat mainly what they had gathered for winter food.

Meat would not be a problem. It can be harvested and butchered at most times of the year, although early December is often the best time to butcher hogs, salt and smoke ham and bacon, make lard, and keep cold in the ice house.

If a winter dinner is fresh pork or smoked ham, it is accompanied by home-canned applesauce or apple butter and root vegetables, especially potatoes. This is a simple meal that fed our great grandparents and it can feed us too. Root vegetables sweeten, caramelize, and enhance flavor when roasted. They are suitable for a delicious winter holiday.

Roast pork, pork loin or ham, plus apple sauce is perfect to accompany a mix of roasted root vegetables that serve as a celebration of winter and the coming of spring.

Roasted root vegetables

Makes 6-8 servings

3 pounds root vegetables (beets, carrots, garlic, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, radishes, rutabagas, and onions)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and thyme or parsley, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub vegetables to remove dirt, peel if necessary, and cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces.

Place the vegetables in a large baking dish. Brush the vegetables with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Place the vegetables in the preheated oven and roast undisturbed for 20 minutes.

Turn the vegetables and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Add the herbs and toss to distribute. Continue roasting until the vegetables are crisp on the outside, another 10 minutes.