I spent the evening with a captivating cabbage. Picked him up in a local market. He was lounging about on an organic stall - a little presumptuous I thought, seeing he was outed by the store owner as only being 'chemical free' - but with his shining purple boldness and hint of a green cap in his wayward curling top leaf how could I resist? He was certainly on the plump side - round as a medicine ball and about as heavy - he was exactly what I was looking for as the star ingredient for my favourite cabbage creation.
German Cabbage is an easy alternative to Sauerkraut. The recipe was shared by a friend and it's become a 'must have on hand' in the fridge. It's great on its own and you can add it to any salad or savoury dish to give it an instant flavour boost.
Cabbage gets my vote as vegie for the week because not only does it hold its own flying solo or mixed with other dishes, it is packed with nutrition and especially with some goodies that we appreciate even more when we hit our wise woman years. There's good old Vitamin C that helps to fend off a raft of cancer-encouraging free radicals, is needed for the production of collagen, strengthens skin and helps to heal wounds.
It has Vitamin K, named after the German word Koagulation because it must be available for blood to coagulate, helping to regulate bone mineralization and thus impacting on bone density. Vitamin A is good for vision and in keeping your skin and immune system healthy. A report in the British Journal of Nutrition February 2012 suggests that it may help prevent early stage age-related macular degeneration from progressing into the late stage.
Word is that other goodies include B6, B2, manganese, potassium, folate, copper, phosperous, selenium, protein, niacin and dietary fibre. So let's count nutrients instead of calories!
A member of the cruciferous family, the portly cabbage has cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory benefits - much better for our bodies than chemical-based drug substitutes. And one of my favourite qualities is its support of the digestive system, helping to regulate the bacteria inside the stomach. This impact is given added probiotic qualities by the fermentation process in making Sauerkraut. Your tummy and bowel will love you for it.
Sauerkraut was used by Dutch sailors to ward off scurvy back in the days of maritime exploration and was introduced to the USA and Australia by early German settlers (my forebears among them), which resulted in people of German descent sometimes being referred to as Krauts.
Cabbage has a slight bitterness - a great thing because the bitter-tasting constituents are a source of the anti-cancer substance AITC however if you want to off-set the flavour, then adding ginger and sweetness to your cabbage dishes might be the way to go.
My German Cabbage recipe is a tongue-tantalising taste combination in that it includes the top palate pleasers of bitter (cabbage), sweet (honey), sour (Apple Cider Vinegar), and salty (natural sea salt or Himalayan pink salt) - very much like its time-consuming and attention seeking cousin Sauerkraut.
So as much as I was enamoured with the outward appearance my portly Friday night friend, I discovered that he wasn't just a glossy glorified version of his paler green brothers - those everyday common garden-variety cabbages - he was even more enticing the following morning as a large bowl of shredded purple strands, softened and satiated after a night of mellowing in a mix of all those tastebud tickling goodies, the result of one of the easiest recipes ever.
The process is simple. First find your cabbage - red or green, which ever takes your fancy. Smaller are easier to deal with - generally more tender and easier to shred finely. Some of you might like to use a processor but I take every opportunity to give my arms a bit of action and I reckon it's part of putting the love in to the dish. Make sure you have a decent weighted sharp knife that feels good in your hand. I used all organic ingredients except for the cabbage, which did however score the chemical-free tick of approval.
Put your shreddings into a container with a lid - I uses a stainless steel pan - never use plastic, non-stick or aluminium. In a smaller saucepan make a mix of:
1/2 cup Olive oil
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard or for an alternative try Horseradish mustard
1 tbsp natural sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
1 tbsp Honey (raw if you can find it).
You can add whatever extra herbs, seeds or spices you like - this time around I was in a mustard seed mood - and I'm going to try dill and caraway sometime soon.
If you want more or less flavour next time then increase or decrease the amounts a little. This may depend on whether you intend to use on its own or in salads.
Heat until the mix just reaches boiling point - you don't want to 'cook' it - and pour over the shreddings. Cover and allow to sit so that the heat of the mix wilts the cabbage. Allow to cool, mix through and then store in the refrigerator. The salt has preserving qualities so it will last for quite some time. In fact the longer the better to add some of the fermentation qualities of Sauerkraut - but of course your tastebuds will tell you if it has reached its use by date.
So hats off to the humble cabbage - another one of nature's unsung heroes.