By Sherrie Norris
You can chop it, shred it, stuff it, steam it, boil it, “pickle” it, fry it, and best of all, you can eat it and never feel guilty about it.
A popular vegetable in many countries, cabbage is especially loved in our area this time of year.
As a child growing up in Avery County, I remember being awestruck each autumn while passing though the Hughes community; nearly every hillside was covered in cabbage plants. I later learned it didn’t just happen by accident, but required a lot of hard work and dedication.
Many older residents love to “pickle cabbage,” or as more commonly known, make kraut “when the signs are right;” it’s a staple in countries such as China and Germany and a well-loved dish here in the High Country. I learned how to make it from the best and have never had it fail. (See directions below.)
A member of the crucifer family, cousin to Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale, cabbage comes in several varieties with the green being a common link to the North Carolina mountains. With a round, tightly packed head, it has a unique flavor. Red or “purple” cabbage is also found locally.
The savoy variety, with crinkled pale green leaves, has a more loosely-packed head with a milder flavor, although not as crisp.
Napa, aka “Chinese cabbage,” is also loosely packed with a milder flavor than either of the above and doesn’t give off a strong odor when cooked.
- Fresh heads of cabbage should be stored unwashed, in plastic bags and will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.
- Cook cabbage just until crisp-tender, as overcooking results in an unfavorable odor and strong flavor. Also to prevent odor when cooking, I have been told it helps to place a half-cup of vinegar or a piece of bread next to the stove.
- Simple centerpiece for party: Cut cabbage into a shell; hollow out and fill with dip or with you favorite potato salad, coleslaw.
- To give coleslaw extra zest, add 1 Tsp. of horseradish.
- Buy large heads when on sale; chop it all and freeze in dinner-size portions for later.
Easy Cabbage Casserole
1 small cabbage, cooked until tender and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
Can of French-fried onion rings
Combine cabbage and soups. Sprinkle generously with pepper. Top with fried onion rings. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
3 cups cabbage, shredded
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup water
Boil for 20 minutes, then drain.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, 1 Tbsp. flour and ¼ tsp. salt.
Mix until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup milk; cook over low heat until sauce thickens. Pour over cabbage and top with Cheddar cheese.
Note: From one of my favorites in my collection, the Crossnore Baptist Church Cookbook
One-Pot Cabbage Supper
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 small head cabbage, shredded
1 large can Mexican-styled tomatoes with liquid
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
In a large skillet, brown beef and onion, drain. Stir in cabbage. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until cabbage is crisp tender. Stir in tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.
Eula’s Easy Sauerkraut
1 gallon water
2/3 cup canning salt
2/3 cup white vinegar
Several large heads of cabbage
Shred cabbage; pack fairly tight in canning jars. Mix water, salt and vinegar; bring to a boil and keep hot while pouring over cabbage in each jar. Put on lids, seal tight. Place jars on old newspapers for approximately two weeks. A little of the liquid may spew out of jars, but that’s ok. Wash outside of jars. Store where they will not freeze.
Note: Reprinted by request. I always receive compliments on this kraut, shared with me by a precious mentor, the late Eula Vines, who taught me a lot about preserving garden goods.