2013-09-26 / From The Garden

Cabbage is King!

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. By Cynthia Gibson

There are many varieties of cabbage and other vegetables within the cabbage family, such as Brussels sprouts and Bok Choy. The full list of cabbage varieties goes on and on, from cauliflower and collard greens to horseradish and Swiss chard.

Because cabbage has a great deal of vitamin C, it is an ideal vegetable for the fall and winter. Most of us are familiar with “hard headed” cabbage; the large, round spheres are piled high this time of year and are a supermarket staple throughout the cold weather months. However, the homegrown varieties found at farmers’ markets are sweeter. They come in white, green, and even magenta. The leafy and curly varieties have large flappy leaves that look as if they were picked from Mr. McGregor’s garden. The other storybook variety is the crinkly-leaved savoy cabbage, a favorite of botanical artists.

The Romans took cabbages with them on their pillages of southern France. The seeds took root. The leafy varieties were grown in the south of France while the hardheaded varieties flourished in the north of France. From there, they took seed in every European, Scandinavian, and Asian country.

The French explorer Jacques Cartier took cabbage seeds to Canada in the mid-1500s, and they made their way south into America through trade and travel. Cabbages became favorites of both Native Americans and the colonists. They must have grown well in Newport, as they still grow on Aquidneck Island today.

Should you only use half of a head of cabbage, wrap the remaining pieces very tightly in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for only two days. After that point, you will not like the smell of the gases emitted from the raw leftovers.

Here are two favorite cabbage recipes that family and guests will savor on a fall or wintry evening.

Un-Stuffed Cabbage

Serves 6

This is an uncomplicated recipe for stuffed cabbage.

1 large green cabbage
(hardheaded, cored, about 4 lbs.)
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 large Spanish onion, finely
2 eggs
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
3 cups cooked white rice or rice of
your choice
½ cup beef broth
3½ tbs. butter
1 can of tomato sauce, 12 oz.
1¾ cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a three-quart casserole dish. Chop the head of cabbage into medium bitesized pieces. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with half of the chopped cabbage. In a separate bowl, mix the beef, pork, onion, rice, parsley, softened butter, and eggs. Make sure the eggs are broken down and mixed well with the ground meats. To avoid making the meat tough, do not mix for long, only about three minutes. Sprinkle one-half of the meat mixture over the cabbage leaves. Place the rest of the chopped cabbage over the layer of meat, and then place the rest of the meat over the last layer of cabbage.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the tomato sauce with the half cup of beef broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the tomato mixture over the meat and cabbage. Place the lid on top of the casserole dish and place in the oven for an hour. After one hour, remove the casserole dish from the oven and add the sour cream to the top of the unstuffed cabbage. Return the casserole to the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes. Pour the sauce over the casserole and potatoes. For those who are not fond of cabbage, this dish will be a surprise.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Serves 4 – 6

Sweet and sour cabbage has been served for centuries with roasted pork, but it is also excellent with roast of duck, bratwurst, or turkey.

2 lb. head of red cabbage
3 medium Granny Smith apples
2 cups hot water
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. butter
3 slices of bacon, crisply cooked
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion
12 whole cloves

After rinsing and peeling off the first layer of leaves of the head of cabbage, shred with a food processor or a slicing mandolin. Do not use the core of the cabbage, just its leaves. Rinse the apples, leaving their skin on, and coarsely chop them.

Place the cabbage, apples, crumbled bacon, and butter in a large pot. Add water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Cover and boil at medium heat for 10 minutes.

While the cabbage is stewing, peel the onion. Stick the 12 cloves into the onion, spacing them around the onion, not all in one place.

After the cabbage has boiled for 10 minutes, bury the onion in the center of the cabbage mixture. Change the setting to simmer and cook for one hour. Taste it occasionally. If the cabbage is more sour than sweet, add more sugar. The cabbage should be more sweet than tart. Add water if the mixture becomes thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

After one hour, remove the onion with all of its cloves. This ageold German recipe is really better if left to rest for a night in the refrigerator. Serve the next day after rewarming.

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