Today, we’ve got a recipe for Scalloped Cabbage with Ham and Cheese from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, as well as growing, storage and preparation tips for cabbage.
Cabbage is a truly old-fashioned vegetable that was praised by the Greeks and Romans for its various health benefits. Back then, cabbage probably looked a little leafier, but it has been bred over the years to form tighter heads. Cabbages are most often green, but red and purple varieties are now popular, as are varieties with savoyed (wrinkly) leaves. Although cabbage sometimes gets a bad reputation as a boring vegetable, it is in fact very versatile, edible raw, cooked, or fermented into sauerkraut. Additionally, it is a very hardy vegetable that can thrive in difficult climates.
Like many brassicas, cabbage grows best in cooler conditions. For earlier cabbages, start seeds inside and plant outdoors when the soil begins to warm and frosts are unlikely. For cabbages that you plan to store, plant seeds or transplant seedlings in late June. To avoid fungi that commonly plague cabbages, plant your crop in a different spot each year. Harvest heads while they look to still be in their peak. Heads should be firm and tight. Keep an eye out for cabbage worms, which can chew holes through the leaves.
Cabbage can be refrigerated for several weeks (if not cut open), but it is also a great vegetable for root cellaring. Wrap individual heads in newspaper and store in a cool, dark area without excess humidity. Before using, peel off any rotten-looking outer leaves. Don’t be alarmed if the cabbage that you have stored look terrible at first—you may go through several layers of bad leaves before reaching an unblemished interior. Cabbage can also be made into sauerkraut for long-term storage.
Raw or very lightly cooked cabbage is a good source of calcium, fiber, folate, Vitamin C, and the amino acid glutamine, which may have anti-inflammatory qualities. When made into sauerkraut, some of a cabbage’s nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body. Like most vegetables, cabbage’s nutritional benefits can be diminished when it is stored for very long periods of time.
Peel off any damaged leaves, rinse, and check for worms. Slice cabbage in half and remove any tough portions attached to the stem. Most recipes will call for thinly sliced or shredded cabbage. It can be eaten raw in slaws, cooked into stir-fries or stews, or made into sauerkraut. If cooking, take care not to overcook, which reduces both flavor and nutritional value. Sauerkraut, which is made by salting sliced cabbage, cooking it, and then allowing it to ferment over several weeks, is a traditional way of preparing cabbages that goes back many hundreds of years.
Scalloped Cabbage with Ham and Cheese
Lindsay Reese, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested this recipe for us.
Ingredients (Picture 1)
- 1 medium head cabbage, cored and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup cooked ham, diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese (almost any kind will work!)
- 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Core cabbage and then roughly chop (Pictures 2 and 3), roughly dice onion (Picture 4)
- On the stove top, steam cabbage and onion with a little water under just tender (Picture 5). The onion will become more transparent (Picture 6).
- Pour cabbage and onion into a greased 9×13 baking dish (Picture 7).
- Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat (Picture 8). Stir in flour and add milk, stirring until smooth (Picture 9), and then add cheese and salt (the salt can be omitted to reduce sodium as the ham and cheese also contain salt). Stir until cheese is melted (Picture 10).
- Pour cheese mixture over cabbage and top with bread crumbs (Pictures 11 and 12).
- Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot (Pictures 13 and 14).
To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook. We also need more volunteer home chefs for this project.
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