Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recipes: Cabbage, Peasant Food

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.

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.

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.

Preparing Cabbage
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.

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.

Cabbage Gratin


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 eggs
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.


  1. I've been wondering if mizuna is related, since the cabbage butterflies are laying eggs on it in my garden. Do you know, is there anything I can do to deal with them besides row covers?

    On the recipe front, I love adding cabbage to brothy soups and gado gado, but my favourite cabbage recipe is Amish cabbage. Cook up a bunch of bacon, take it out and add some water to the grease, in which you then cook up some sliced carrots, onion, potatoes, and a ton of chopped cabbage. When it's all of a doneness, add sour cream. So bad, and so good.

  2. Eden -- mizuna, arugula and mustard are all part of the brassica family along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts. They are all prone to the same pests. The larvae of cabbage butterflies are those green caterpillars that eat through the greens, especially the heads of cabbage. We usually do a treatment of Bt late in the summer to protect our winter cabbages and collards (in August) when the worms are at their worst.

    Bt is short for Bacillus thuringiensis -- a biological pest control. It's a bacteria that naturally occurs in nature that is cultivated and used directly on crops. It is only active on the plant for about 24 hours.

    Unfortunately, it is also the same pesticide new GMO crops are being modified to produce in their cells to kill pests. Problem: it kills many things (including monarch butterflies) that encounter the plant throughout its growing life and then fumigate the soil with the crop debris is cultivated in. Nonetheless, GM firms are marketing it saying organic farmers use it, so it must be good.