16 Ways to Eat Your Cabbage: Part 1
Besides advocating local and whole foods, I’m a huge advocate of minimizing food waste. So when I was visiting my parents on Tuesday and Dad phoned the house asking if he could bring home some extra cabbage from a friend who had received surplus from a gleaning organization, I said I’d take some.
And I did. A whole box full. Did you know that most conventionally grown cabbages are packed 16 heads to the box? I didn’t, but now I do. (For some reason, I think Mom and Dad’s box may have had even more cabbages in them, but I’m not jealous.)
So, here begins a new section about ways I’ll be using these 16 heads of cabbage.
1) Make some old favorites.
Some of my previous entries are delicious & easy ways to use cabbage.
Asian Slaw (This calls for Napa cabbage, but you could substitute green cabbage easily.); Crockpot Beef Stew; Vegetarian Torta (This is a sandwich with mashed beans & cabbage in it–and my description does not do it justice!); Bean Tacos with Cabbage Slaw; Indian Cabbage (This has been one of the more popular recipes on this blog.); and Chili Slaw (This is one of my all-time favorite slaw recipes.)
2) Give some away. (I did this.)
3) Make sauerkraut.
Yesterday, I made 12 3-cup jars of sauerkraut with 5 1/2 heads of cabbage. Making sauerkraut is easy, and it’s something I’ve been doing for a number of years now partly because half of my family heritage is German and partly because I love sauerkraut.
Also, sauerkraut–if not heat processed–is very good for you. It’s a lacto-fermented vegetable that has many healthful properties. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, says “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines.” Sadly, heat processing sauerkraut (aka “canning”) kills the lactobacilli. Whether you heat-process or not, however, is up to you.
Sauerkraut is not, as some people think and one person once said to me, “rotted cabbage.” In fact, the very ingredients in sauerkraut are what makes it last a long time.
Caraway, mustard, and cumin seeds help to prevent mold (ie. they’re antimicrobial), which is why they’ve been traditionally used in lactic-fermentation. (And if you’re interested in reading more about caraway seeds, I’d recommend this site. You can also read about other spices there, including cumin and mustard.)
I’ve adapted my own method of making kraut based on several different recipes. And what do you do with sauerkraut, you ask, besides eating it with sausages? I’ve posted some sauerkraut recipes that are tried and true winter staples at our house. Sauerkraut casserole and BBQ sauerkraut are both easy and good.
4 C. shredded cabbage
1/2 t. cumin seeds
1/2 t. mustard seeds (You can also substitute 1 t. caraway for the cumin/mustard combination.)
2 t. non-iodized salt
2 T. whey (see note below)
In a large bowl, place cabbage. Add the salt, seeds, and whey. Pound the cabbage with a potato masher until it is diminished in size and begins to wilt. Pack the cabbage into a clean quart jar and cover. Make sure there is at least an inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. The cabbage juices should help fill up the jar. If there are not enough juices, add a little water.
Place in a cool, dark place for at least 3 days. (Not the refrigerator, though, it’s too cold.) You may want to place the jars on an old pan or cookie sheet because sometimes they leak water. After 3 days, open the jar. Smell it and/or taste it. If it smells strong enough, put it in the refrigerator. If you like stronger kraut, let it ferment a little longer. I have left kraut fermenting in a dark cupboard in our basement for up to 10 days before refrigerating.
Now, you may decide to refrigerate or to heat process the kraut. You can heat process the jars by placing them with clean lids & rings (and making sure there is sufficient water covering the cabbage) in a canner and then boiling the water. Process for about 20 minutes. Store unsealed jars in the refrigerator. I do this to some of my sauerkraut, but keep in mind that canning kills the lactobactilli which is one of the healthful benefits of sauerkraut.
A note on whey: Instead of whey, you can add an additional T. of salt. But, if you ever have raw and/or whole milk that sours and separates, the clearish liquid is whey. Strain it out and place it in your refrigerator for later use. You can also make your own whey by allowing a little milk to sit out for several days. The milk will separate into curds and whey. Contrary to popular belief, it is not rotten; the chemical composition has changed and it’s no longer “sweet” milk. You can always use sour milk in pancakes or biscuits and no one will know the difference as long as you don’t tell.