Cabbage belongs to the brassica family which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, kohl rabi, brussels sprouts and many Oriental greens. One of the oldest known vegetables, it was being eaten by the Chinese several thousand years ago.
Cabbage can be cooked in different ways. The one way not to cook it is to boil it long and hard in lots of salt water; the nutrients leach out and the smell of sulfur pervades the kitchen. To prepare a head of cabbage for cooking remove the outer leaves and cut the cabbage into quarters, then slice into thin shreds, put into a colander and rinse thoroughly. To prepare leafier spring cabbage simply separate the leaves, pile them together and shred. Rinse thoroughly.
Preserved cabbage is a feature of many cuisines. In the markets of Hong Kong and China there are pickle shops selling bunches of pickled cabbage. In Korea kimchee, pickled cabbage, is served at all times of the day. Alsace and Germany vie with each other to claim the best sauerkraut – salted and fermented white cabbage.
Cabbage is still an important part of the East European diet and is essential for such hearty, delicious dishes as golubtsi – rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with pork. I find that the best way to cook cabbage, particularly red cabbage, is to shred it finely and braise it very slowly (for three or four hours) with some thinly sliced onion and the same quantity of apple, a little stock, brown sugar, red wine and wine vinegar. In the best version I have ever tasted, a friend replaced the red wine with port, and kept adding it to the pot until almost a whole bottle was used – extremely extravagant but wonderful.
When available, leafy spring cabbages should be bought for immediate consumption and certainly not kept for more than a couple of days. Firm cabbages will keep in a cool place for up to a week, but there will be some moisture loss in the outer leaves. (14-15)
© 1994 All rights reserved. Published by Websters International.