Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Mon Petit Chou
Not for nothing do the French use cabbage as a term of endearment. Cabbage is an enormously solid and reassuring vegetable that has provided good nutrition for the humanity of the world. It is productive, high in nutritional value, and best of all, stores well. I've written previously about its role as a storage vegetable and of course about its evocation as sauerkraut. I'm enormously vainglorious and possessive of my cabbages and delight in their translation from little plants in late April to amazingly huge heads by August.
This year I planted three varieties. Ruby Perfection (red cabbage), just a few. It stores well, we like the German red cabbage (Rötkohl), and I'm trying to learn other ways to use it. This year, a new variety planted specifically for sauerkraut. Kaitlin, a new F1 from Johnny's Selected Seeds, is supposed to be a late-season, good storage cabbage ideal for kraut. I'm hoping it will solve my problem with early splitting. So far it is not very big (I planted it last so maybe it got a slow start) but looks very healthy. But this post is devoted to Tendersweet, my darling little cabbage (mon petit chou).
Tendersweet (again, from Johnny's) was an experiment last year. I found that it was not ideal for kraut but was wonderful for fresh eating and cooking. As the name implies, it is a delicate, thin-leafed cabbage. The head is endearingly flat and the soft leaves peel away easily, which makes it perfect for cabbage rolls. (See the recipe in last year's post.) Last year I froze a number of these in meal-sized portions and we mournfully pulled the last from the freezer around January. More this year.
Because it is so mild and delicate, it doesn't need any of the fussing around that you sometimes read about with salting or brining. I just cut thin slivers across the head with my sharp knife and it can be used for slaw or even served with a simple vinaigrette. Even the midveins are not harsh and coarse as some cabbages can be.
It began splitting last week after a lot of rain, so I harvested a number of the larger heads for a small batch of sauerkraut, and stored some others for near-term eating. Happily there are still a few smaller heads out there waiting for later use.