Cabbage: From a large family of brassicas, cabbage comes in many varieties; from smooth-leafed, mild tasting green and white cabbages, to crinkle-leaf varieties such as savoy.
These multi-layered. dense-leaved vegetables have a long history in Europe, with records stretching backs to before 1000BC, and therefore, has consequently become an integral ingredient in European cuisine.
Pickled, steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised or enjoyed simply raw, this vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin C and K as well as being packed full of iron and fibre.
Autumn cabbages are those varieties that have been sown between March and May or planted between May and June. Autumn varieties are best harvested after a few light frosts as the cool weather enhances the vegetable’s definable sweet flavour.
Seasonal period: October to March (applicable to autumn and early winter varieties)
Flavour friends: The flavours of cabbage vary quite significantly between varieties, although all raw cabbage carries a slight peppery palate. This makes is a great vegetable to pickle or ferment. Some varieties will lose their pepperiness through cooking whereas others will retain their slight bitterness.
Cooked cabbage pairs brilliantly with pungent ingredients such as garlic and mustard as well as the earthy flavours of truffle. Salty ingredients such as bacon and anchovies also enhance the cabbage’s sometimes bland tendency.
Fruit is too a great companion playing to its sweeter side; apple, red currants and raisins and sultanas are some classic combinations.
Buying, storing and preparing: Select vibrant looking cabbages with crisp, healthy leaves, although outside leaves can always be removed. Cabbages should be fairly heavy and should not appear hollow – this indicates a rotten head.
Store in cool, dark place for up to a week – it will keep slightly longer if stored in the fridge.
To prepare, remove outer leaves if dirty or damaged. Remove the tough, woody core from the leaves before chopping, slicing or shredding to your desired thickness.
Cooking: Pickled, steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised or eaten raw, cabbage is extremely versatile and very quick to cook.
Steamed: 5 – 8 minutes Boiled: 4 – 6 minutes Sautéed: 5 – 8 minutes
Words by Helen Upshall