You need some patience to grow a cabbage from seed: depending on the environment and variety, it will take about 90 – 120 days until harvest.
However, after that time you could have a cabbage that weighs up 4kg, which will give you a massive 40 cups of shredded goodness from just one little seed! With that volume of produce, it’s essential to find ways of preserving cabbage for future use.
This method of preserving cabbage is the easiest, and frozen cabbage can be used later for coleslaw, rissoles, soups and stews from the spring to autumn, when cabbage is out of season. You can freeze it shredded or in whole leaves, but wedges will be the most usable. Rinse the wedges in water and drop them into a pot of boiling water to blanch for 3 minutes to kill off any bacteria. Remove and place in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry very well and place in bags. Label, date and freeze. To use, thaw in the fridge.
Fermentation is a natural process of preserving cabbage during which micro-organisms convert starch and sugar into alcohol or acids that act as natural preservatives. This process is used today for making things like wine, cheese and yoghurt, and also fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, which are well known for their health benefits especially for the digestive system. One of the easiest dishes to make is sauerkraut, and it is a good use of a cabbage harvest.
Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation where lactobacillus, a good bacterium found on the surface of vegetables like cabbage, converts the sugars in the cabbage to lactic acid when submerged in brine. Lactic acid is a natural preservative and gives the sauerkraut its distinctive sour flavour.
- 1 medium cabbage (about 1.5kg)
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway or mustard seeds (optional)
- You will need mason jars with a capacity of 2 litres
- Make sure everything is clean. Sterilise the jars and wash your hands before beginning.
- Use only the good leaves of the cabbage, and shred it into fine ribbons. Place in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and massage it in. It will take about 10 – 15 minutes for the cabbage to become limp and watery as you massage and squeeze the mixture.
- Add the caraway or mustard seeds at this point.
- Add the cabbage to the jars and push it down. Add the liquid from mixing too. Once the jar is full, top it with an extra cabbage leaf to keep the mixture submerged in the brine.
- Over the next 24 hours the contents need to be weighed down. Use another jar filled with something heavy like marbles or cleaned stones to weigh down the mixture, and push it down every hour or so. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to prevent dust from getting in.
- After 24 hours, check the level of the brine in the jar. If it is a little low, top up using a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water.
- Cover with a clean piece of cloth and check often to make sure the cabbage is submerged. Leave for 3 days and check the taste. Leave longer if needed. Seal and place in the fridge, where it will last up to 3 months.
A flavour sensation!
Hot pastrami with sauerkraut, mustard and cheese on rye is a combination that will make you salivate. The Reuben, as it is known in the USA, was invented by a chef named Reuben and that is all we can say about it as there is still an ongoing debate on which Reuben invented the iconic sandwich. Whatever the answer, it was a really good idea.