As a little kid, I was not fond of trying new vegetables – a reluctance that I believe many of us share.
However, parsnips were never even an item on our dinner table because they weren’t part of our standard rotation of vegetables. We pretty much stuck to the classics – green beans, carrots, corn, and broccoli.
I don’t think I tried my first parsnip until I was in my twenties! Now that I’ve had one of these starchy delights, however, I don’t think I’ll go another year without enjoying some.
Not only are parsnips easy to grow, but they’re also easy to find in most supermarkets. They are available year round in most areas, in fact. If you choose to grow your own parsnips, you store these root vegetables for several months under ideal conditions.
Although you can store parsnips for several months without freezing, canning, or preserving them in any other way, this isn’t practical for many people. I, for one, don’t have enough storage space to keep hundreds of parsnips packed in dirt.
Some people swear by keeping parsnips in the ground over the winter months. If you live in an area that does not experience harsh winters where the ground freezes solid (or there is several feet of snowfall, like where I live) this is a great option.
Parsnips that are left in the ground are quite a bit sweeter than if you can them! Mulching around the base of the greens can help ensure that they do not rot.
If leaving parsnips in the ground is not an option for you, you might also consider these alternatives to canning them:
- Store in sand in a root cellar
- Freeze them
- Dehydrate them
- Pickle them
- Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks
No matter how you store your parsnips, do not stash them with apples and pears. These fruits emit ethylene gas, which can cause the parsnips to become bitter.
This year, when staring at the hundreds of parsnips I needed to store, I decided to turn to my trusted pressure canner. Here’s how to can parsnips quickly and easily at home.
Parsnips are a lot like carrots in that they have a sweet, nutty flavor and are starchy vegetables. In fact, before potatoes came around, parsnips were the star of the show.
Most people harvest and enjoy parsnips in the fall and winter – like carrots, the cold and even a light frost can enhance their sweetness. Although these vegetables can grow to an immense size – we had some that were nearly as large as my arm – it’s best to harvest them young as large parsnips have a harsh, woody-testing core.
Choose parsnips for canning that are small to medium in size – no smaller than four inches and no longer than eleven. Discard any that are shriveled or limp and look for ones with firm, pointy tips.
In addition, the flesh should be free of any damages, like cuts or cracks. You also want to avoid canning parsnips that are blemished in any way – dark markings indicate decay.
You may process any type of parsnip, but I recommend going with Albion, Lancer, or Javelin varieties – these tend to taste the best.
Processing parsnips in pints or quarts is equally safe – you will roughly double the recipe amounts in this recipe for quart jars, as this recipe calls for pints. I prefer canning parsnips in pints for two reasons – one, I only have two people to feed in my household, so a pint jar is usually sufficient at dinner time.
Second, parsnips must be canned in a pressure canner. You can fit 20 pint jars in a pressure canner whereas you can only fit seven quart jars.
Pressure canners must be used for parsnips because they are low-acid vegetables. You cannot safely can parsnips while using a water bath canner, despite what others might tell you.
Water bath canners don’t reach high enough temperatures to reduce the risk of botulism, a common soil borne illness that can make you extremely sick.
You can choose to peel or not to peel your parsnips in this recipe – many people recommend peeling to safeguard against further botulism risk. I typically don’t peel vegetables before canning unless my Presto recipe book specifically tells me to.
Some vegetables are supposed to be peeled because the peel is thick and inhibits proper heat distribution. However, others, like parsnips, people peel because they are worried about risking botulism.
There have been very few studies about the risk of botulism in properly pressure canned foods that have not been peeled. If you’re concerned, peel your parsnips – in this recipe, it’s recommended that you cut out the fibrous core of the parsnips anyway, so you might just as well peel them.
What’s more important is that you carefully wash your parsnips, especially if they were not organically grown. Get all the dirt off and make sure you scrub hard in the crevices
You will also need to adjust the pressure if you are canning at altitude: add five pounds of pressure if you are above 1000 feet.
Canning Parsnips Recipe
- Cutting board
- Pint jars
- Pressure canner
- Canning lids and bands
- Jar lifter
- Stockpots for boiling water
- Clean towel
- Paring knife
- Oven mitts
- Bubble removing tool OR wooden utensil
- ½ lbs parsnips per pint jar (10 lbs per canner)
- salt optional
- Begin by washing your parsnips thoroughly. I did this by dumping all of my parsnips into my bathtub, since I had so many, and filling it with cool water. I let them soak as I gently scrubbed them, one by one.
- Once your parsnips are scrubbed clean, you can cut them into cubes, chunks, or rings. They should be about one to two inches in size. After cutting them, goa head and wash them again.
- Blanch your parsnips for approximately four minutes in boiling water. Remove them, and then dunk them immediately into an ice bath.
- While you are cutting, washing, and blanching your parsnips, you can have another pot of boiling water going on the back of the stove. After your parsnips have been blanched, go ahead and pack the pieces into the jars. Allow for one inch in regards to headspace, then top them off with fresh boiling water, still allowing about an inch of space to remain.
- Remove any air bubbles using a wooden or plastic bubble remover – don’t use anything made out of metal, as this can lead to breakage.
- Fill the pressure canner with three quarts of water (or two inches) and turn on your burner.
- Add salt to your canning jars, if desired. Otherwise, place your lids and bands onto your jars and tighten until they are fingertip tight. Wipe the jars down if there are any food particles on the outside.
- Load your canning jars into the canner. Make sure they are secure and don’t bump around into each other. Certain models of pressure canners, like we have, allow you to double stack. Go ahead and double stack if you have enough canning jars and the pressure canner allows for it.
- Fasten the lid on the canner and turn the heat to high. Allow the canner to steam off for 10 minutes – you will notice steam coming from the little vent in the front of the canner.
- Once the canner has steamed off for ten minutes, add your weight (if you are using canner that has a weighted gauge) or close the petcock. This will pressurize your canner.
- Watch the pressure of your canner carefully until it reaches 10 – 11 lbs (this depends on your type of canner). Once the pressure hits the perfect level, start timing. You will need to watch the canner closely while it’s canning your food – don’t wander away or start doing other chores outside. If the pressure wavers at all, you will need to adjust the heat. If the pressure goes too low, you must restart your timer once you get it back up at the appropriate pressure.
- Can at 10 lbs pressure when using the weighted gauge canner or 11 lbs with a dial gauge. Remember to adjust for altitude if you are over 1000 feet.
- When your processing time is complete, turn off the heat. Some people slide the canner off the burner, but I don’t like doing this. There is a lot of pressure built up inside the banner, and it’s very hot – you risk hurting yourself. Just turn the burner off and wait.
- Do not open the canner until it is fully depressurized. Before opening the canner, remove the weighted gauge or open the petcock and wait an additional two minutes. Then, unscrew the pressure canner lid.
- When you do open it, be careful, and wear oven mitts – it’s very easy to burn yourself with the steam.
- Remove your jars with a jar lifter and place them on a towel. Do not place them on the bare counter, as this can not only leave ugly rings on your counter but it can also cause your jars to crack, as the temperature will be quite cooler.
- Let your jars sit for 12 to 24 hours as they cool. After this time period, check the jars to see if they sealed. Don’t retighten the bands – you can remove them if you’d like. Double check that the lids sealed by pressing gently down on the lids – if they flex at all, they have not sealed and you need to put them in the fridge to eat within a week.
- Store your parsnips in a safe, cool location. Check them regularly for spoilage!
Personally, I find that parsnips can be used in just about any way carrots can. They are sweeter than carrots, and they also have a nuttier taste.
Canned parsnips will be quite a bit softer than you are used to, but that’s not a bad thing. It makes them perfect for use in mashed parsnips (you can mix these with potatoes if you’re hesitant about the taste and texture).
They can also be blended into stews and soups, which will add creaminess without having to use cornstarch or flour.
My personal favorite way to cook parsnips, however, is to roast them. When you roast parsnips in a high-temperature oven, the sugars will caramelize and give your parsnips a glorious sweetness that’s perfect for fall. You can even sautee your parsnips if you so choose!
Your canned parsnips will last for a year or more when stored properly (preferably in a basement, pantry, or root cellar). Experiment with different recipes to find the ones that you like best!
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).