My favorite part of cabbage is the raw cabbage heart. It’s the core that’s left after the leaves have been cut away (usually for shredding). While many folks discard the cabbage heart, I think it tastes like the deliciously crunchy vegetable kohlrabi. Alas, my favorite part isn’t for everyone. After all, it’s the vegetable’s leaves that earn cabbage its keep, and these recipes illustrate just how tasty they can be!

Red cole slaw

Red slaw makes a great side dish or topping for BBQ, hamburgers or hotdogs.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Shredded cabbagee

Grated cabbage is packed into quart jars with salt and water to make sauerkraut. (Notice the cabbage heart, the core of the cabbage.)

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

While some folks make slaw with red cabbage, this slaw actually gets its name from the tomatoes. Red slaw vs. white slaw (which is mayonnaise-based) can stir quite a debate. But in western North Carolina, red slaw is the only slaw acceptable for BBQ, hamburgers and hotdogs. (And by BBQ, I mean pit-cooked, pulled pork – period.)

Red Slaw (or BBQ Slaw)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • ½ cup white distilled vinegar (or enough to coat the cabbage)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (We use a pint of home-canned tomatoes.)

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage head. Cut the head into manageable sections, then finely chop or shred the vegetable. Pour off the excess water.

Add each ingredient into a bowl, one at a time, mixing with your hands. (Break up the tomatoes as you mix them in.) You can eat this slaw right away, but refrigerating it overnight (or for several days) enhances the flavor.

Sauerkraut is a dish of German heritage, whose name literally translates to “sour cabbage.” Cabbage that’s allowed to ferment develops a distinct sour flavor that can be attributed to the lactic acid bacteria naturally found on raw cabbage. Sauerkraut can be found throughout the US, and it’s used differently in regional dishes. In the South, kraut dumplings may be the most familiar use, while in the Northeast, sauerkraut is a key ingredient for Reuben sandwiches. In the Midwest, sauerkraut is the topping of choice for bratwurst. Hey, no matter where (or how) you eat sauerkraut, it’s delicious!

Sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • Salt
  • Hot water
  • Cold water

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter and slice off core. Shred the cabbage leaves, then pack it into quart jars. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of salt as you add the cabbage in each jar. When it’s packed full, add enough hot water to fill the jar completely. Place lids on the jars, but don’t tighten. Set jars in a tray to catch any overflow, and allow the cabbage to ferment for about a week.

When fermenting is complete, remove the lid and add enough cold water to fill the jars, then tighten the lids. Your homemade sauerkraut can be stored in the refrigerator, in their tightly sealed containers, for several months. When it comes time to serve it up, just simmer your kraut in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Serve as a side dish or meat relish.

A holiday meal doesn’t go by in my husband’s family without Aunt Pam’s specialty: Cabbage Casserole. Even though she loves trying new dishes, if the cabbage casserole were missing from the potluck, I’m afraid she might face exile. In fact, her daughter has perfected the dish just in case there’s a schedule conflict and Aunt Pam can’t make it to the family function. So without further ado, here’s the treasured family recipe:

Cabbage Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter
  • 1½ cups crushed corn flakes (Pam prefers Total® corn flakes)
  • 4 cups cabbage, shredded
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Mix together butter and crushed corn flakes. Spread half the mixture in a square casserole dish. Layer cabbage and onion over corn flake crust. Mix together soup, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and milk. Pour over cabbage. Spread cheese evenly over the top of the dish. Top with remaining corn flake mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Serve – and enjoy!

Whether for BBQ or casserole, one thing’s for sure: Cabbage makes a delicious side dish to almost any meal. Crunch on!