Cabbage is one of those items that’s hard to store for the winter months. I know of some people who wrap the cabbage up in newspaper and then store it in their root cellar. In order to make this approach work, you need a cool root cellar—around 40 degrees (or lower) is best. The cabbage can last up to five months when stored this way if the storage meets all the required conditions.
Another way to store cabbage is to pressure can it. I’ve saved the secondary cabbages that come up after you cut off the primary cabbage this way. You can prepare and store the cabbage whole in most cases and it comes out reasonably well. The minute you have to cut the cabbage up, pressure canning starts to lose its appeal because the cabbage gets quite soft (sometimes downright mushy).
It’s also possible to preserve cabbage as sauerkraut—an approach that I highly recommend. Nothing quite matches the taste of homemade sauerkraut. Certainly, nothing you buy in the store will match the fermentation approach that most homemade sauerkraut relies on. Unfortunately, you can only eat so much sauerkraut in a year, even if you love the stuff.
Freezing cabbage is another alternative, but one that is also fraught with problems. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of truly horrid cabbage that has been frozen. If you don’t prepare it right, the mush that you get out of the freezer will not only look unappealing, it’ll taste quite bitter. In fact, about the only thing you can do with it is put it in the compost—it really is quite bad. After years of experimentation, I have come up with a way to freeze cabbage that does produce a palatable result. You can defrost the cabbage made this way and use it for anything that required cooked cabbage—the cabbage will still lack the crispness of fresh, so coleslaw is out of the question. Here are the steps I follow.
- Clean the cabbage carefully, removing any damaged leaves.
- Cut the cabbage in four to six parts of about a pound each. Don’t cut the cabbage too small. Cut the cabbage in such a way that each piece is still attached to the core. Don’t remove the core.
- Heat a pot of water to boiling. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1/4 cup of vinegar to the solution. The salt and vinegar improve the taste of the final product by keeping minerals from adhering to the cabbage.
- Blanch the cabbage for 2 minutes (timing is critical).
- Immediately cool the cabbage with copious amounts of cold water and ice.
- Place the cabbage on clean, white towels to dry. Pat or otherwise handle the cabbage as little as possible, but try to get as much of the water off of the cabbage as is possible.
- Freeze the cabbage overnight. Don’t wrap it. Separate pieces from each other using waxed paper or aluminum foil (the foil works better, but is a lot more expensive).
- The next morning, place the cabbage in the smallest possible freezer bag or, better still, use a vacuum packer such as the Food Saver to store it. Less air is better. When using a vacuum packer, use the lowest possible setting to avoid damaging the cabbage. Using the 8″ rolls works best because you can make the bags as large as needed.
If you’re able to vacuum pack the cabbage, it can last a minimum of a year in the freezer. In fact, you can often keep it in the freezer longer without any sign of frost damage, but longer storage may reduce the quality of the cabbage and affect the nutrients you get from it. Let me know if you have any questions about this technique at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.