What is a "wortel," you may well ask. It means carrot or root in Dutch, from the same root word (no pun intended) as our English word orchard or ort-yard, which means literally, plant- or root-yard. Think also of St. John's Wort, meaning St. John's plant.
"Tje" is a diminutive in Dutch, such that "brood" (bread) becomes "broodje" (little bread, i.e., roll) and "koek" (gingerbread) becomes "koekje," the origin of our American English word cookie.
So you may have guessed that "worteltjes" means baby carrots, like those pre-washed and pre-peeled small carrots in plastic pouches so commonly found in American supermarkets. "Winterwortelen" or winter carrots are their grown-up relatives -- larger and longer. I imagine them dozing through the long winters in root cellars in North Holland or Upstate New York a century ago. Now we keep them crisp in the vegetable drawer of our refrigerator.
Grandma Vandenbergh's cookbook contains recipes for both baby carrots and the larger variety shown above. The preparation is basically the same, except that the baby carrots are cooked whole, and the winter carrots are cut into strips or slices and cooked longer that their younger counterparts, presumably because they are older and tougher. Here is my translation of Martine Wittop Koning's recipe for "Winter Wortelen":
- 2 lbs. carrots
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
When they have thus cooked, pour them into a serving dish and sprinkle with the finely chopped parsley. (The recipe does not specify, but I imagine you salt the water before cooking the carrots.)
The recipe for baby carrots is much the same, but suggests that it may be easier and preserve more of the vegetable's flavor if you steam the carrots instead of boiling them. And indeed that is my usual method of cooking carrots; it not only preserves more of the flavor, but also more of the nutritional value. The Dutch have a reputation for overcooking their vegetables, so I only cooked mine half as long as the recipe indicated, and they were certainly well enough done. Depending on how large or small you cut yours, twenty minutes may be plenty long.
I don't know if it was because I bought "real" carrots instead of the artificially cut and pre-washed baby ones, or because I browned them in the butter as Wittop Koning suggested, but these were the sweetest I'd ever tasted:
Eet smakelijk! Enjoy your meal!