Cabbage

Cabbage

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Cabbage is king of the cruciferous vegetable family and can be the most delicious of vegetables if not overcooked. Sadly, cooked cabbage has been wrongfully accused of smelling up kitchens everywhere. It’s not the cabbage to blame, but the cook. The notorious odour problem is a result of overcooking. Cabbage should be cooked just until tender, preferably using stainless steel pans.

There are many varieties available: the tightly packed round green cabbage; the elongated sugarloaf; the striking red cabbage and the crinkly Savoy are the most familiar. Readily available also are the popular Chinese relatives of cabbage such as bok choy, gai choy and wong bok, among others.

Cabbage is also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fibre.

Look for tight, heavy, unblemished heads. Fresh, uncut heads of cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Cover loosely with a plastic bag or use perforated bags. Do not wash cabbage before storing; the extra moisture will hasten deterioration. If you plan to eat the cabbage raw, use within a few days. Cabbage that you plan to cook can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

The most popular and successful method of preserving cabbage is pickling. Kimchee and sauerkraut are fermented, pickled products that take days to make. Cabbage flavour is compatible with many herbs and spices. Steamed cabbage can be seasoned with anise, basil, caraway and celery seeds, dill, mustard, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, black pepper, savory and tarragon.

Savoy cabbage: Crinkly, with waves of blue-green leaves, Savoy cabbage has thin, richly flavoured leaves, which are ideal served raw in salads, or cooked. Cooked Savoys do not have the strong sulphur odour of green cabbage. Savoy only keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator, so buy it when you plan to use it.

Red cabbage: The heads are usually smaller and denser than green cabbage. Red cabbage needs to be cooked longer than the green types and is often braised with vinegar (or another acidic ingredient) to help retain its beautiful red colour. Always use stainless steel when preparing red cabbage to prevent discolouration.

Basic preparation: It is usually cut into wedges or shredded for cooking. Trim heavy stem and inside ribs from wedges. To shred, cut a head downwards, into quarters. Hold each quarter by the stem, with the top pressed firmly on a board, and use a sharp knife to cut thin slices from the side. Discard heavy ribs and stems.

To cook: The old way to cook cabbage is to boil it for hours. The new way is to steam it until just tender-crisp, or, for quite a different effect, gently braise in stock with added flavourings.

Steamed cabbage: Shred cabbage or cut into wedges. Wash in a colander under cold running water. Melt a knob of butter in a heavy saucepan and add cabbage. Season with salt and pepper, plus a grating of nutmeg if desired. Cover tightly and steam on brisk heat until cabbage is just tender, with slight crunch – about 5 minutes for shredded cabbage, 8–10 minutes for wedges. Shake pan frequently to toss cabbage with butter and to prevent scorching.

Braised cabbage: Shred half a small red or green cabbage. Heat enough butter to cover the bottom of a heavy flameproof casserole, and toss cabbage until coated in butter. Season with salt and pepper and add enough stock to come to top of cabbage,plus a spoonful of vinegar for red cabbage. Cover tightly and bake in a preheated moderately slow oven or cook over a gentle heat for about 1 hour or until cabbage is very tender and stock absorbed. If desired, aniseed, nutmeg, caraway seeds or other flavourings may be added to the cabbage.

Ingredients

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