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©2011 Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)
Preserving cabbage by freezing, fermenting or drying is a great way to learn how to be self-sufficient and put food up for the winter. Cabbage is packed full of nutrients and can be used in soups, stews, trail mix, casseroles and other dishes.
Freezing Cabbage: Trim outer leaves, core and quarter the cabbage. Save those outer leaves and core for stocks and soups. The core is full of nutrients and has a slightly stronger taste.
Cut the quarters into wedges or shred them. Blanch 3-4 minutes in boiling water. Drain, pat dry and cool. Store in zip-lock freezer bags.
Use frozen cabbage for soups, stews and casseroles. Frozen cabbage is not suitable for fresh cabbage recipes like slaw.
Freezing whole cabbage: you can freeze a whole head of cabbage—place the cabbage in a paper bag and freeze. To use for cabbage rolls, thaw—the leaves will be just pliable for stuffing without steaming. The inner leaves that are too small for stuffing can be thrown into the stewpot.
Ferment—Make Sauerkraut: You will need a crock to ferment your cabbage into sauerkraut. Don’t use metal or plastic because an off-taste will develop in the kraut. You can find fermenting crocks here.
Use about 5 lbs of cabbage to 3 tablespoons sea salt. Shred the cabbage. In a 1 gallon ceramic or stoneware crock, layer the cabbage and salt. First, put down a layer the cabbage, then sprinkle lightly with the sea salt. Pack the layer down with your hands. Repeat these layers until you have used all the cabbage and salt.
Place a weight on the cabbage—such as a rock or plate—you want to make sure the cabbage stays submerged under the brine. Leave a headspace for the brine to rise. Cover with a cloth to keep the flies and dust out.
The kraut will take a few days to ferment, depending on the temperature. If it’s hot, it will ferment quickly, if it’s cool, a little longer. After the kraut has pickled, store it in a cool place. You can freeze or can your sauerkraut, although canning will decrease the nutrients. You can add other veggies in with your cabbage to ferment such as turnips, grated carrots, garlic, onions, seaweed, greens, beets, burdock roots and Brussels sprouts. Experiment with recipes and use up that abundant garden produce.
To use your sauerkraut, cook it with smoked venison, pork ribs or briskets. It’s wonderful in Reuben sandwiches. Use as a filling for perogies or fry it for a tasty side dish with pork sausage.
Drying Cabbage: Drying cabbage gives you a versatile pantry staple that’s easy to store and use. Shredded cabbage can be dried on drying racks or in a dehydrator. Dried cabbage is excellent for medicinal remedies and to add to your favorite meals. You can find dehydrators through Cultures for Health.
Wash the cabbage and trim off the outer leaves and remove the core. Shred or grate the cabbage and steam for 2 minutes. Set the dehydrator at 100°F and spread the shredded cabbage over the trays, dry for about 18 hours or until crisp. Store in a dry, airtight container in a cool, dark place away from light.
Dried cabbage can be eaten as it is and provides a nutritious and tasty snack for hiking. Experiment by adding dried cabbage to your homemade trail mix recipes. Add it as is to stews and soups. To rehydrate, soak the cabbage for about 30 minutes in cold water with a little lemon juice added.
Dried cabbage is nonperishable. It’s lightweight for backpacking and camping trips and adds an extra nutritional boost pasta, rice and bean dishes on the trail.