Friday, October 18, 2019

Fried Cabbage on the Wood Cookstove

Well, we are back into the wood cookstove season here.  We didn't start daily firing until Friday, October 11, which is the latest we've ever begun the wood cookstove season.  It wasn't due to the temperature, either.  It was due to the fact that we've had such a wet autumn that keeping dry fuel around has been quite a challenge.

Now we're in full cookstove swing, though, and each meal we've eaten at home has been cooked exclusively on the Margin Gem.  A couple days ago, I made a vegetable dish that I had never prepared before: fried cabbage.

I had heard of fried cabbage, but it wasn't until last month that I finally got to try some.  You see, we were invited to the fourteenth birthday party for a lovely set of twin girls who belong to my friend Leah and her husband Jason.  The girls chose the majority of the supper menu, which was all very delicious.  Whether the fried cabbage was their choice or their mother's, I don't know, but I was excited to try it.

Now, it is important to note that Leah and I come from very different culinary backgrounds.  My family's food traditions are usually carbohydrate-laden dishes leftover from the days before central heating and highly automated farming.  Leah, on the other hand, grew up with a sister who is a Type 1 diabetic, so she is naturally a much more health-conscious cook than I have ever been.  Thus, while I am usually the one in our relationship who introduces Leah to things like aebleskiver, she would be the one to introduce me to a new vegetable dish.

Unfortunately, I wasn't in the kitchen at the birthday party to see what magic Leah worked to create her version of fried cabbage, but I really liked the result and decided that I would strike out on my own sometime in the near future.

Well, the future arrived this week.  Here is what I did:

1) In a non-stick ceramic skillet, I fried a little bacon.  I had cut the strips in half and wanted to use up what was left of a pound that had been open for a while, so I don't remember how much bacon I actually had.  Three strips would have been more than sufficient for a whole head of cabbage, though.

2) Once the bacon was cooked to near crispy, remove it from the skillet and put it in the warming oven to drain on a paper towel-covered plate.

3) While the bacon was frying, I sliced a head of cabbage.  It was a large cabbage, and there are only the two of us, so I only used about half of it.  I cut it into slices that were a little less than a half-inch wide.

4) The next step is to pour the bacon grease out of the pan, reserving a tablespoon or less.  If you want to skip the bacon, I would recommend using a tablespoon of butter to help facilitate the browning of the cabbage. You don't need much fat at all.

5) I returned the skillet to the fire and laid the cabbage slices down in the dab of bacon grease.  I think this part should be done over a pretty hot fire because the taste and texture will be better if this part is done in a hurry. Stir and turn the cabbage frequently to encourage uniform browning.

6) While the cabbage was beginning to fry, I seasoned it with just a light dusting of seasoned salt and a whisper of pepper.  Because things seemed to be pretty dry, I also added perhaps a tablespoon of hot water from the teakettle.  Let the cabbage cook until it shrinks down in the pan before going on to the next steps.

7) I removed the bacon from the warming oven and crumbled it into the cabbage, and then I added a half handful of dried cranberries and a half handful of raisins.  (I know, I know.  That was basically the same as adding sugar, but old habits are hard to break.)  I think I will cut back on the amount of dried fruit next time.  It was a little much.

8) Cook all together until it reaches the desired brownness or limpness you want and serve immediately.  It is delicious!

Once again, I forgot to take pictures of the process.  This is actually
a photo of the leftovers being re-warmed on the Margin Gem a
few days later.  Even the leftovers were fantastic!


  1. Sounds good!

    FWIW, when we made the cabbage for the party, we were working around some food allergies. I used olive oil, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Butter does lead to better browning, but the cabbage will still caramelize nicely with olive oil if given a little extra time.

    Your bacon and dried cranberries combo intrigues me. When we do Brussels Sprouts, we either brown in olive oil a/o butter w seasoning, dried cranberries, and fresh lime juice at the end, OR we do a bacon/garlic/cream sauce recipe. Both versions are frequent favorites, but now I'm thinking of trying a hybrid of the two, sans the lime juice.

    See? You can eat healthy things.... with bacon.

  2. Fried/sauteed cabbage is a go-to meal for us in the fall, given that we grow fall cabbage most years (though not this year.)

    Often I start out by frying up a few sausages, half a kielbasa, or a couple of hot dogs, (cut up into 1/2" +/- sized pieces) then add the cabbage after the meat has browned some. As you say, the cabbage can be a bit dry so we too add a bit of liquid, though I usually go for some chicken stock or bouillon - maybe a quarter cup's worth. I cover the pan for a few minutes after adding the cabbage and stock so the cabbage can steam for a bit which helps it settle better into the pan. Then I take off the lid to let out excess moisture enabling the cabbage to caramelize. All this takes a fairly high heat, but with near constant stirring towards the end so the browning is even.

    I have to think that fried cabbage in all its variations has been a staple in cabbage growing parts of the world for a long time. It's good stuff.