In the kitchen, cabbage is one of the most versatile vegetables to work with. You could literally add it to almost anything. No matter if the dish is American, Chinese, or whatever the origin, cabbage is a healthy addition to any meal mainly due to its high fiber content. You can prepare it almost any way, but the most popular of all is to boil it. What you may not know is that the secret to properly boiling cabbage is in steps. You must boil it, prepare it, then cook it in hot water for a few minutes. Below is a guide to help you better prepare cabbage for your next meal.
Types of Cabbage
Before you can boil cabbage, you first must decide which type of cabbage you want to work with. When you think of cabbage, most people picture green cabbage, but there are other types available to help you make all kinds of unique recipes. Some of those are:
- Green – Leaves shaped like wide fans, green cabbage feels waxy when it’s in its raw form. Sweet flavor when cooked but peppery when it is eaten raw.
- Red – Richer flavor than green cabbage. Mainly red cabbage is used for pickling and garnish in dishes.
- Savoy – This cabbage has thick white veins and is rich in Vitamins K, C, and fiber. Tastes a bit earthy when eaten.
- Napa (aka Chinese Cabbage) – Appears similar to romaine lettuce but tastes much sweeter than green cabbage.
- Bok Choy – Tastes peppery or bitter but when cooked the leaves stay soft while the stems become crisp.
Judging the Quality
When you’re searching for the right quality of cabbage, you don’t want to purchase anything that has loose or soft leaves. They should be firm and tight. The cabbage should also feel weighted when you hold it in your hands. If the leaves appear to be wilted the cabbage may be old or may have been mishandled. If you’re looking to get your hands on the best tasting cabbage be sure to purchase it (or harvest it if you grow your own) is during the summer. Cabbage normally tastes better after frost since it is usually grown in wet and cool conditions.
Don’t Buy Precut Cabbage
While it may sound inconvenient, cabbage loses its nutrients the moment that its cut. Another thing to consider is the flavor. When cabbage is bagged, it can be stored for long periods of time. However, the longer the cabbage sits, the more flavor is lost.
Before You Begin
Before you boil the cabbage, you first have to remove the first couple of layers. You don’t want to keep any leaves that appear discolored, wilted, or worn. The outer leaves are usually exposed to the dirt and are the most damaged from mishandling, so it’s best just to peel them off rather than try to work with them.
After you have peeled off the first layer or two, you will then want to rinse the head of the cabbage under some cool water. Rinse well that way most of the pesticides and other chemical residue is washed away. The only exception to this is if its organic cabbage in which case no chemicals should have been used during the growing process. However, even organic cabbage needs to be rinsed in case of the possibility of any sort of insects, eggs, or sand that may have worked its way into the leaves.
Cut the Cabbage
The most common way of slicing up cabbage is to cut into thin slices or slim shreds, but you can boil the cabbage in any form you wish. Do cut out the middle of the cabbage and also remove any firm stems at the bottom of the wedges you’ve cut. Continue to cut your cabbage into the shape you wish. You can use a mandolin if you want thin shreds, but wedges will work fine too.
Start by heating the water over medium-high heat. The water should only be about 3/4 of an inch deep. Use enough water to cover your cabbage without overflowing. The water level doesn’t have to be exact though as you’ll be draining the excess out. If you want added flavor, substitute the water for beef stock or vegetable oil.
Once the water is boiling, add the cabbage. As the cabbage cooks, the leaves will absorb the majority of the water. Cook shredded cabbage for about 5 minutes and cabbage wedges for about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to watch it carefully as it cooks. Overcooked cabbage releases unpleasant flavors and smells.
Remove the Cabbage from the Pot
Once you’ve boiled your cabbage, remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon. You can also pour the cabbage into a colander to drain out the excess water. If you’ve used stock instead of water, you can use the excess for soups, or you can drink it hot. Just don’t burn your mouth!
Since cabbage has a naturally bitter taste, you’ll want to be sure to season it appropriately with salt. Too much salt only results in cabbage that tastes nasty. Salt it a little bit then taste. If it needs more shake your salt shaker a couple more times before tasting it again. Always add a little at a time until it tastes desirable to you. Enjoy!