Cider-Braised Lamb and Turnips

Lamb and turnips are a classic combination. Both are available year-round, but we associate them especially with spring. Braising them in apple cider adds a tangy sweetness. I used a dry hard cider; you could use a non-alcoholic cider, but it would be a much sweeter dish. I like to use the cheapest, toughest cuts of lamb on the bone for stews, because they are very flavorful and become perfectly tender after a long braise.

Large fall turnips, such as the purple-topped variety usually found in grocery stores, are some of the longest-keeping vegetables that would have sustained our ancestors well into spring. They can be bitter, but blanching them for a few minutes helps. Spring turnips are delicate and sweet, and can be used whole in this recipe. It would be great to use the turnip greens as well, but the turnips I had on hand this week came without greens.

1 pound lamb ribs or neck bones
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion or 2 leeks, minced
1 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 t. marjoram or thyme
6 whole cloves
2 C. dry hard cider
2 C. water or chicken stock
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 lb. carrots
2 lbs. turnips with greens

Rinse meat and pat dry. Heat oil in a wide skillet. Brown well on all sides. Remove meat; add onion, salt, pepper, marjoram and cloves. Cook until onions are lightly browned. Add meat back into the pan with cider, vinegar, and water or stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer 3-4 hours, until meat is falling off the bone (or transfer to a crockpot and cook all day). Cut carrots, turnips and turnip greens into 1-inch pieces. Add to the pot and simmer 30 minutes more, until tender. Meanwhile, remove the meat, chop it coarsely and return it to the pan, discarding the bones. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the delicious sauce. Serves 4.


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