Oh cabbages. That sometimes foul smelling produce that is so good for us and when used in the right amounts turns out a tasty dish. I’ll tell you a secret right up front. It’s one of my secret weapons in soup. It’s one of those ingredients that combined with other veggies makes a soup irresistible if you use the right amount. Cabbage is this week’s produce and you need it in your life – if not for delicious soups and coleslaw, then for its nutritional benefits.
What is Cabbage?
Cabbage is another cruciferous vegetable. Side note, I find it interesting that some of the less eaten veggies fall in a family of vegetables that are incredibly good for us. I know our family doesn’t eat cabbage as much as we could because that smell can come back to haunt us a little too much. You know what I’m saying? However, cabbage is high in Vitamins K, C, and B6 so it’s a great nutritional addition and so affordable.
How to Choose Cabbage
Cabbage comes in a variety of colors and varieties (green, red, Savoy, Napa, bok choy, Brussels sprouts) and can be found in the coolers in the produce department as a head or pre-shredded. I find pre-shredded cabbage to be most convenient but like the fresher texture and flavor when I buy cabbage whole. Look for a firm head of cabbage that isn’t spotty or wilted.
How to Use Cabbage
Cabbage is great to use in salads, soups, and egg rolls. It can be used raw or cooked, but you want to watch how much you use in a soup or casserole as it can easily overpower a dish.
How to Prepare Cabbage for Use
- Cut cabbage in sections and wash under running water.
- If there are any signs of bugs or worms as cabbage can have, soak in salt water for 15 minutes. I usually add about a tablespoon of salt to enough water to submerge the cabbage.
- Chop as desired with a stainless steel knife. (The carbon in carbon steel can react with the phytonutrients and turn the leaf black. Still edible but not so pleasant looking.)
Cooking Preparations for Cabbage
Cabbage can be cooked a wide variety of ways but sautéing it is one of the best ways to retain flavor and not have watery tasting cabbage unlike steaming or boiling it. Add it to dishes like soups, casseroles, cabbage rolls, and egg rolls, or serve it as a side alone or with mixed vegetables. You can also ferment cabbage to make kimchi or sauerkraut.
How to Grow Cabbage
Cabbage is a hearty vegetable that likes cooler weather. You start it from seed inside 6-8 weeks before the last frost and plant it outside 2-3 weeks before the last anticipated frost. Plant it 12-24 inches apart. My friend and I tried growing it and got one head but it was in ragtag shape. The summer was ridiculously hot and we didn’t weed that part of the garden so well. I may try growing a few heads again this year. See how it does in New Hampshire weather.
How to Preserve Cabbage
Wash the cabbage then cut to desired size or separate leaves. Blanch per the instructions below then freeze.
- Bring stock pot 2/3 full of water to a boil.
- While water is heating, cut cabbage to size you want to freeze.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water (to stop the cooking process and cool the cabbage after blanching).
- Add cabbage to boiling water.
- Blanch for 1 & 1/2 minutes.
- Remove cabbage from water and give a quick ice bath (approximately 1 & 1/2 minutes).
- Drain, then package and freeze.
TIP 1: Flash Freezing: If you want your cabbage frozen in more manageable pieces rather than a large clump so you can package together and just use as much as you need, spread it out on a cookie sheet that’s been covered in parchment, waxed, or freezer paper. Put in freezer for 1 hour then package as you wish for freezing.
TIP 2: I use my salad spinner to get excess water off my produce after blanching and before freezing.
Cabbage can be canned if you are making sauerkraut or pickled products. Otherwise, you need to pressure can it. I have a pressure canner but it needs a few pieces replaced (it’s the canner we used when I was a kid) so I only use recipes that can be water bath canned. See everything I use to waterbath can and steps that show just how easy it is.