• by Chef Jenn Farmer •
A couple years ago, I wrote an article about overly abundant zucchini in the garden and a series of recipes and ideas to help gardeners and chefs utilize as much as possible. So, in the spirit of that article, I have a story for you. This year the family decided to try growing giant cabbage, as well as the normal sized stuff. They, unlike my maternal grandfather, were pretty conservative with it, planting just a row, but none of us realized just how much a giant cabbage would yield. You know looking back; I guess the word “giant” should have been the first clue. “There was more than one clue?” you say? Yes, I am that dense sometimes. I never thought we would be practically swimming in the leafy vegetable by months end.
Next indicator was when my son’s father Ben, a tough and very broad shouldered man, brought in ONE cabbage head tossed over his shoulder by the root end. Let me elaborate, the root was very big—about a foot-and-a-half long, and it had the circumference of a sink pipe. It was big enough to support a cabbage that easily surpassed a basketball in size. It looked vibrant and dewy, the very picture of youth as far as garden veggies go. Looking back that cabbage was a bit immature and small compared to the row of sibling heads we picked in following weeks. Nonetheless it was impressive to see it, tossed over a man’s shoulder like a hobo pack.
You may be wondering, like I was, why the root was still attached? Since it was so big and solid he could not break it from the stem without assistance. He would have needed a sharp, heavy butcher knife, or a small hatchet to do the trick properly (and as I write this, I must relay to you dear readers, that he is saying “no, not a hatchet, woman, a full on axe was necessary for the beastly vegetable” spoken as he stood a little taller, and had his chest extra puffed out a bit—I forgot to warn you he is a true fisherman…..). From that first head U made a batch of Korean-style spicy fermented cabbage and, then some sauerkraut, and then I cooked up some bubble and squeak, and made a nice slaw. The next 2 days I put cabbage in at least 2 meals a day. Even after all that, we couldn’t finish the head of cabbage. So when grandpa decided to pick another cabbage for sauerkraut, we scaled it to see how much salt he would need. It weighed in at over 20 pounds. No wonder it took me so long to finish the other head. He got out a 5 gallon bucket, and got to work finely slicing the cabbage, and scaling up ingredients. It was a glorious amount of slaw.
There are lots of different recipes for making sauerkraut, but the one I find most fool-proof, and that ferments the fastest follows. It is very basic, so don’t hesitate to add some spices or chilies in the mix if you are so inclined.
I have included some other recipes that contain cabbage, as well as other seasonal vegetables we seem to have an abundance of in the garden at the moment. I especially like the beet salad recipe; it reminds me of my mom for some unknown reason. Perhaps it is because it seems like the sort of salad she would enjoy. It stands up nicely to roasted beef, or lamb. I can even picture it with a nicely roasted saddle of venison. Maybe a nice red wine and crusty loaf of bread, as well as a fresh bowl of spring peas or other fresh and flavorful vegetable.
- 1 head cabbage (not giant)
- 2 tablespoon salt
Reserve a few of the outer leaves of cabbage. Shred the rest of the head, placing it in a large ceramic bowl, and salt it. Mix the cabbage, and let sit aside for a few minutes, until the liquid starts to weep out. Mix it with your hands again, and then place the leaves on top, then a small plate, with weights on that. Check the kraut in a couple hours, and mix again with your hands. See how much liquid has come out, keep stirring and pressing the sauerkraut until there is enough liquid to come up over the shredded cabbage (if there is not enough liquid in 24 hours , add one quarter cup water with one teaspoon salt to bring up the level of liquid). When the enough liquid has come out of the kraut, replace the leaves, lid and weight, and let the kraut sit for about 3-14 days in a cool, dark area. I recommend covering the whole thing with a clean towel or cheesecloth, so air can still circulate, but dust and insects don’t disturb your cabbage. The key is to make sure the kraut is submerged in its own liquid the whole time. You can let it age for as long as you want really, but 14 days is pretty average for a nice, sour batch. Don’t fret if there is a little grey mold on top. Just remove it. If you are really skeptical, or it tastes moldy or off, don’t hesitate to throw it away, cabbage and a little salt don’t cost much. This recipe yields about one large Mason jar full. To kick start a new batch, add a few tablespoons of the fermenting liquid to your new batch, it will speed up the process a little bit.
I let my small batch go for 10 days before removing the lid to sample it. The appearance was nice, not too soggy—crispy, mildly sour, and very nice. After 14 days it was perfectly tart and the texture was still crisp, so I put it into clean containers and refrigerated it. It is good raw, but also enjoyable warmed up with a slice of quality ham and some fresh garden vegetables, and a homemade dark rye bread, with lightly salted, freshly made sweet cream butter. Of course a nice corned beef or pastrami sandwich would be excellent with this sauerkraut. My all-time favorite is a nicely grilled beer brat with slightly warmed sauerkraut on a toasted bun with caraway seeds—the flavor of tailgating, autumn breezes, and football games. Not only is this kraut really tasty, it is actually good for you. It is a naturally fermented food, so it contains probiotics, which are very good for your digestion system. Nice bonus.
- One quart chopped cooked beets
- One head cabbage (3 pound) chopped fine
- One cup grated horseradish (fresh if possible)
- One heaping half a cup sugar
- Three quarters cup vinegar
- One half teaspoon celery seed
- One half teaspoon salt
Mix all the ingredients together and allow the flavors combine. Serves 8-10
Cabbage One Dish Dinner
(Sort of like a lazy man’s version of cabbage rolls, but even better)
- One pound ground beef (or pork)
- One half pound ground lamb
- One half cup minced white onion
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- One half teaspoon smoked paprika
- One half teaspoon paprika
- Pinch of dried thyme (or fresh thyme leaves, no stems please)
- Salt and pepper
- One half of a cabbage, about one and a half pounds, large diced
- One half cup shredded carrots
- One and one half cups rinsed brown or white rice, uncooked
- 2 cups tomatoes, small diced, or tomato sauce
- 3 cups chicken broth, hot
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven, brown the meat in a skillet, and then carefully drain the grease from it. Add the onions, and garlic, and sauté until soft, then add the spices, and mix in carefully. Cook for a few minutes before adding in the rest of the ingredients, then covering the pan with a lid. Bake in 350 oven for about 45 min, carefully remove from the oven and stir. Replace the lid and allow cooking for 35-45 more minutes, until the rice is done and the flavors come together. Serves 4-6