Last Sunday the rain was pouring down, but we still needed to eat, so we ventured out to the farmers’ market. And it was completely worth the effort. The Catos (who also grow potatoes, which are out of season) had a big tray of the sweetest, crunchiest savoy cabbages I have ever eaten.
Just some of our haul from the market: savoy cabbage, pumpkin, parsley, fennel and late-season Braeburn apples.
We also bought pumpkins, kumara and oranges from Roach’s Nurseries; fennel, parsley and cos lettuces from the Southern Fresh salad stall. And a bag of tomatoes grown by Steven and Jan of Plainsview Gardens – way, way out of season but tasting remarkably good after a day on the windowsill. And of course we had to take home some Cornish pasties – fabulous comfort food for a cold wet day.
Savoy cabbages are typically milder than ordinary cabbages, and they have beautiful, bright green crinkly leaves. They are a winter vegetable, so this is the time of year when they’re at their absolute best.
You can use savoys for any cabbage recipe. Here’s what I did with mine:
Savoy cabbage three ways: raw, cooked and fermented
Half a bowl of finely sliced savoy cabbage – amount will depend on how many you’re feeding, and appetite
A handful of parsley, chopped finely
Two or three fennel stalks, sliced finely
A handful of spicy/ bitter greens from the garden, sliced finely – I’m a really slack gardener, but there’s plenty of self-seeded American land cress and frilly endive in the vege patch.
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp salt (to taste) and 1 tsp sesame oil (optional). Mix together well and pour over the greens.
Savoy cabbage – crunchy, green and sweet
Sweet and sour cabbage
This is northern European slow food. My recipe is adapted from the American food classic The Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (J.M. Dent and Sons, 1980, 5th edition).
This goes brilliantly with roast pork or lamb. This week my son Tom served it up with stir-fried lamb’s liver and mashed kumara – also a great combination.
It looks prettier when made with red cabbage, but tastes just as good with savoy.
Makes enough for 6-8 people.
Trim any messy outer leaves of 1 large head of cabbage – approx 1kg
Cut the head into sections. Remove the hard core and finely slice the cabbage.
Chop up 2-4 rashers of bacon. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, cook bacon for a few minutes over low heat until some fat is rendered out. Or use 1-2 Tbsp melted butter if you don’t want to use bacon. (Olive oil doesn’t give such a good flavour.)
Saute in the fat until golden 3 – 4 Tbsp finely chopped onion (about half a large onion).
Now add the cabbage, and 1 or 2 finely chopped apples.
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp caraway seeds (optional but authentic)
¼ cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey (or 1 or 2 tsp sugar if you don’t have honey)
Cover the pan and simmer very slowly for at least half an hour – an hour is even better. Add water if it gets too dry.
This is a traditional European fermented delicacy. It’s seriously easy to make, delicious, and it’s also incredibly good food. The human gut needs traditionally fermented foods to stay healthy.
Here’s my basic recipe. It comes from Sandor Katz, author of two great books on fermentation, Wild Fermentation (Chelsea Green, 2003) and The Fermentation Handbook (Chelsea Green, 2012). Here’s a link to an interview he did with Kim Hill earlier this year.
You need: 1 cabbage; a 1 litre glass jar; sea salt – approx 2 Tbsp; 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
Finely slice cabbage. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and caraway seeds if you are using these. Mix well. Pack the cabbage into a glass jar. Tamp the cabbage down as you go, so the cabbage gets squashed down and compressed. Sandor suggests using your fist to do this. If you do it well, the whole cabbage will probably fit into one jar.
Now place a weight on top of the cabbage, so it doesn’t dry out. I use a smaller glass jar (eg a jam jar) filled with water. Some people use a clean stone. Cover the jar with a cloth or tea towel to stop flies etc from landing on it.
Leave the jar on the kitchen shelf or somewhere you won’t forget about it, for about a week. Check and taste every day or so. It will start to ferment in a few days – in warm weather it’ll happen even faster than that. When it tastes sour it is ready to eat. (This will depend on your tastebuds.) Store the jar in the fridge to stop the fermentation.
Sauerkraut is a great vegetable partner to sausages and potatoes. My friend Lois, who’s originally from New Jersey, serves it in a bread roll with a hot dog, mustard, ketchup, and some potato chips on the side. She warms it up, but in my house we just serve sauerkraut straight from the jar.