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Oct 24, 2013 02:59 PM

ISO ways to salvage a particularly bitter bunch of celery

I buy supermarket celery, and don't mind when it is slightly bitter, though I prefer the milder stalks. I like the leaves in salads and for cooking.

For the first, and perhaps last, time, a couple of weeks ago I bought a large, plump bunch of local celery at the last farmer's market of the season here near Boston. At home, I removed almost all the leafed stem-lets and bagged them separately. I trimmed the root end, halved the stalks crosswise, and put them into water in a large straight-sided lidded glass jar. The leaves and stalks are by far the most bitter celery I have ever encountered. Using a sweet dressing makes the leaves barely edible, but I haven't cooked with them for fear of ruining the stock or soup.

I tried eating the raw stalks. Normally I do not de-string celery but this stuff demands it. It's almost impossible to bite through the strings, and when I peel them, I get the whole outer layer of the stalk coming off, not just thin strings. The lighter part that remains is only slightly less bitter than the exterior.

Will steaming, stir-frying, or any other method of cooking mellow the celery? I suspect that even if I added something sweet like honey, or put it in a sweet marinade, the bitterness would still be overpowering. I don't want to ruin a bunch of other ingredients but would hate to throw the celery out if I can salvage it.

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  1. Will sautéing work, like it does onions, perhaps?

    2 Replies
    1. re: salsailsa

      That's what I want to know before wasting the effort. Will cooking - whether saute, braise, steam, or whatever - make enough of a difference to turn it into something edible?

      1. re: greygarious

        I have no idea if cooking it would make a difference. I have another experiment to try. Put something flavored into the water with the raw stalks and see if it will absorb that flavor and mask some of the bitterness. I'd try lemon juice.

    2. You could try brasing. Saveur had a recipe onlive recently that I've been meaning to try. I couldn't be simpler. All that's in it is onion, pancetta, celery and tomatoes.

      1. Do you have Molly Stevens All About Braising? If not here's a link to a braised celery recipe that I've fixed several times:

        1. Swizzle sticks for Bloody Mary. ~ To cook with it, par boil for a few minutes and then incorporate into the dish. If that doesn't work have another, and another Bloody Mary. There's always file 13.

          1. I roasted celery for the first time this year along with some parsnip, carrot and onion. It was really surprisingly good! I tried it because I was low on other ingredients and my celery was needing to be used up. It definitely sweetened it up. It was roasted with maple syrup and Dijon. Here is the recipe I used.