Celeriac, a Danish staple ingredient

By Tina

I like stories about the “olden days,” as my 6-year old likes to call them. My mom tells one such story about how when she was girl in Denmark, her dad would dig a hole in their backyard as winter approached and call it an “earth cellar”. In this earth cellar, he would keep cool some of their winter’s stash of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots and celeriac were the cellar’s three constant boarders.

While the other items might sound like common staples in any parents’ pantries, celeriac is less prevalent in the American household. However, it’s been around for generations in Northern Europe.

I was flipping through one of my mom’s old Danish cookbooks, a simple cookbook called Fremads Storkogebog that was a popular cookbook in 1952 when it was published in Copenhagen, Denmark; it had both the basics and the fancy stuff. In the recipe for Sellerisuppe, no further explanation of its main ingredient is given; everyone knew what a selleri was. Today, many Danish recipes that call for celeriac must distinguish between blad selleri, or leaf celery, and knold seller, or knob celery or celeriac. Celery, as we know it today, just wasn’t on the menu back then and provides one example of how cooking and eating have evolved.

Pan-fried celeriac steaks were a vegetarian staple for me when I lived in Copenhagen, where celeriac was always available at the Grøntorv (greenmarket); they are flavorful and hold their own when cut into ½ inch steaks and sautéed in oil over a hot flame with just salt and pepper. Cooked up in soup, celeriac is divine and I’ll be doing that soon.

What uncommon version of your favorite produce do you cook with? Share with us in the comments below!