Cabbage actually comes from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, kale, canola, brussels sprouts and arugula. These hearty greens are prized for their health benefits and cabbage is no exception, particularly when eaten raw or fermented. Cabbage is a nice green to work with because it has more texture and crunch than other greens and a stronger taste that compliments meats, particularly bacon, pancetta and anchovies.
Cabbage is now in full season, but it isn’t often recognized as a romantic vegetable. Rather, in many societies cabbage has long been a staple peasant food. This is still reflected in its price; cabbage is one of the best market bargains.
If cabbage is a peasant food, this is testament to its versatility and hardiness. Different varieties were adapted for use in varying climates. We grow approximately five main season green cabbage varieties, two red varieties and three winter varieties. Cabbages can store for up to five months. The plant’s nutritional value provides a source of vitamin C in the form of sauerkraut through many harsh winters. It is the basic ingredient for coleslaw in summer and winter alike.
There are a number of recipes that feature cabbage that go beyond sauerkraut and coleslaw. Below are some favorites.
We purchased ours, pictured here, at the Home Hardware on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. It's Slovenian-made, but also pricey as far as kitchen tools go (and awkward to store). A sharp knife, of course, is a good substitute.
If you are a cabbage affectionado, there is no substitute for a good mandoline for slicing cabbage. Very thin cabbage slices make for the best texture in coleslaw, soups, stews and sauerkraut.
Butter and freshly grated Parmesan for the dish
1 1/2 lbs green cabbage, diced in 2-inch squares
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp chopped parsley or dill
Salt and white pepper
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter gratin dish and coat sides with cheese. Boil cabbage, uncovered, in salted water for 5 min. Drain, rinse, press out as much water as possible. Whisk remaining ingredients until smooth, add cabbage, pour into dish. Bake until firm and lightly browned, about 50 minutes. Serve with sour cream flavoured with mustard, curry sauce or creamy tomato sauce.
Braised Cabbage with Bacon and Thyme
From Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie
1 pint Chicken or Vegetable stock
6 slices Bacon
1/2 a handful of fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tbsp dried)
1 white/green cabbage, halved and very finely sliced
2 tbsp Butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place stock, bacon and thyme in a pan, bring to a boil and then sprinkle in the sliced cabbage. Mix, put lid on pot and boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the cabbage is a consistency you prefer. Top up with additional stock if you think it's reducing too much. Add the butter, some olive oil and season. Serve immediately.
Variation: We make a variation of this recipe, adding sliced carrots and onions.