(Recipes at end of blog post. Good recipes. And a photo of my mom.)

Cabbage has an unfortunate reputation.

Stinky. Gassy.

The food of people from foreign lands - dirty, flea-bitten, stepping off gangplanks and living on top of each other in tenements.

Cabbage Eater. Kraut.

Although the French petite chou is endearing, as little cabbages often are.

The lowly cabbage. It can't help that it's stinky. And windy.

I didn't grow up eating a lot of cabbage. Not because it wasn't all around me - my ethnic heritage is Lithuanian, Polish, Irish, and Pennsylvania Dutch (think Amish, except the kind of Amish who's not afraid to punch you in the nose if he had to.)

I was literally steaming in cabbage. Yet, I didn't eat it because I used to be the pickiest eater on the planet. Yes, even picker than your kid.

However, times change, children mature, and palates are deadened by so many cups of steaming hot coffee and that summer in France when one smoked Gauloises -

And eventually, one day, you return the long way around to getting to know cabbage again - not via a trip home to the St. Canicus church picnic and a Styrofoam bowl full of buttery halushki.

Church ladies cooking up something buttery and cabbage-tastic in Mahanoy City, PA
But slyly. Unexpectedly. Almost embarrassingly and as a slap in your high-falutin' face as you were acting all cosmopolitan and adventurous, showing off your flair for being comfortable with the exotic as you dipped-in to a bowl of Vietnamese soup or a plate of Aloo Gobi...and with the second mouthful, it dawns on you:

This is cabbage. This is potatoes. This is broth and noodles and the same kind of root and cruciferous melange that every culture that ever lived through hard times has thrown together to get themselves to the next hard time.

And you just paid $8.95 for something you've been p-shawing for years. (Except without the turmeric and galangal.)

Here's the other thing:

You should just eat your cabbage. Eat it. Eat it, eat it, eat it.

Cabbage is damn healthy for you. (Or purports to be. Maybe cabbage is not really healthy but finally got a good PR manager.)

Vitamin C, fiber, potassium.

Cabbage also may have important cancer-fighting super powers. Ever hear of indoles? Yeah, me neither. But a quick Google around will tell you that cabbage is packed with these phytochemicals that may turn the evil estrogen into safer estrogen. And if you've ever had cervical dysplasia - and really, who has that kind of flexibility and strong lighting to check themselves; best go get your Pap smear and find out for sure - there are some studies out there which begin to indicate that cabbage may be good for all your nether regions. As raw as possible. As masticated as possible.

And I'm talking about the cabbage, just in case you got off track.

Miracle cures aside...

Here are a few of my favorite old-timey cabbage recipes. Enjoy! And feel free to add your own in the comments!

Lithuanian/Polish Halupkis
From the St. Ann's Church Cookbook, circa 1987 - recipe by Irene Roman with my additions.

2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 medium onions, minced
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 large cabbages (don't be shy)
1 1/2 cups rice
1 (10 3/4 oz) can tomato soup
1/2 jar (14 oz) catsup (or ketchup)

Turn on your favorite polka album. 
Core cabbage and steam until tender. (Open the windows.) 
Cook rice and let cool. 
Drink a small glass of sweet wine or a shot of Four Roses. 
Combine meat, onions, eggs, cooked rice and spices. 
Moosh it up with your hands. Really get into it. This will develop your upper body until you can crush beer cans under your armpits. 
Place ball of meat in a cabbage leaf. 
Scream after touching steaming hot leaf and run hands under cold water. 
Drink a highball. 
Roll up cabbage leaf and tuck in ends. (Repeat scream, etc.) 
Place layer of cabbage in a big-ass roasting pan. 
Arrange rolled cabbage and meat in roaster. Really tuck them in like babies. 
Pour tomato soup and catsup over them. 
Take your curlers out. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. This will give you time to get to Mass and back again.

This is not a woman who has burned her hand on hot cabbage leaves.
This is my mother. And she is an Eastern European ninja.

Irish Colcannon

Recipe from Spiral Path Organic Farm (Terra makes it with kale which is just as yummy. Kale is so good for your eyes that you will have X-ray vision after one bite. I promise)
1 Bunch of Kale or Lacinato Kale, cut into thin slices and then cross cut fine  
2 Onions, chopped 
5 cloves of garlic 
2 C grated carrot 
1/3 C olive oil 
¼ tsp pepper 
1 tsp salt 
6 C potatoes, diced with skins on; more nutrition, richer flavor, less work  
¼ C minced fresh parsley 
Sauté the onions, garlic, and carrots until soft. Add the kale all at once and stir often over high heat until well wilted. Add ¼ C water, salt & pepper. The steam will rise, cover the pan and allow steaming at low temp for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place this on the bottom of a 9x13-buttered pan. Spread parsley mashed potatoes (see below) over the kale mix. Top with 2 C of your favorite cheese, mild cheddar is great. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. 
Parsley-Mashed Potatoes: Dice 5-6 cups of potatoes. Barely cover with water, add 1 t salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 15 mins. Pour off water (save for soup stock). Add about 2 C milk, 4 T butter, and parsley. Mash by hand or with mixer. Add salt, pepper and 1/8 t nutmeg (yes, my secret ingredient for awesome mashed potatoes) to taste. Vegan style: use the potato water-no milk. 
Colcannon: a traditional Irish and West Scots meal of butter, cabbage (or kale), potatoes, salt & pepper. It is an old Irish Halloween tradition to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed within this warm comfort food.
Here's my ginger boy at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Girardville, PA.
He looks very Irish. However, there is no red hair from the Irish in our
families that I know of. The red hair comes from the Italians
and probably the Lithuanian ancestors who shacked up with Vikings. 

PA Dutch Pepper Cabbage

From the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church Cookbook, Manheim, PA. No date, no copyright page - it's like these people have never heard of Creative Commons. Recipe by Mary Ulrich.
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded 
1 green pepper, chopped fine 
1 tsp salt 
3/4 cup vinegar 
1/4 cup water
1 tsp dry mustard 
1 3/4 cup sugar 
1 tsp celery seed  
Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water to cabbage, pepper and salt. Let set for one hour. Drain. Add syrup mixture which has been boiled gently for 5 minutes and is cold. 
Now go finish starching the sheets and call the daughters in to scrub the floors.

This is my Great Aunt Louise who lived in The Foot (aka Mahanoy Plane, PA).
She was part PA Dutch. Which explains the whitewashing, I believe.
She is in her garden - a magical place of bottles filled with
colored water, seashell pathways, and lots of cats. And an outhouse.
Which you can see in the far right. An endless source of fascination
for great nieces and nephews high on soda and circus peanuts.

You can check out more cabbage, butter, onion, noodle, garlic recipes from my neck of the woods at


Anonymous said...

Great post. Kim however was surprised that you failed to mention kimchi. I responded that you aren't part Korean.
She pretends to LOVE it, especially the kimchi at the Korean joint down the road from your place. I think she loves to aggravate me with the vile stink of it. I literally thought the sewer backed up in the downstairs living room last time she was eating it. A

Brigid Keely said...

My MIL, who is Russian and Hungarian, was raised by Austrian Serbs (Serbian Austrians? Ethnically Serbian but living in Austria), and married a guy from Montenegro, makes a dish similar to Halupkis. It's incredibly good. Sometimes she uses barley instead of rice. The stuffing is similar to what she stuffs into peppers for stuffed peppers as well. said...


Ooooh....there's an article on making your own sauerkraut in either this month or last month's Living magazine (of Martha Stewart dynasty.)

One of the recipes is for sauerkraut with kimchi seasonings. I can't imagine anything more stanky and delicious! Two bonuses: I don't have to shower - I can just blame it on the cabbage. Plus, if I stink out the house, I get the house to myself. :-)

Madeline and Johnny J like cabbage. It's a good thing. I have 4 heads in the garage from people who didn't pick up their CSA boxes. Halupki time! said...

Whoa, Bridig! Barley in halupki sounds delicious!

I'm all for a Nouvelle Halupki fad in cooking!

MommyTime said...

These recipes sound delicious. Cabbage and I, however, are mortal enemies. Not because of the taste (which I really like) but because of the after-effects which are so "windy" as to leave me doubled over in agony or curled in a fetal position on my bed for a few hours. Just. Not. Worth. It. However, your kale recipe has given me great hope that I can substitute that, or Chinese cabbage (which many people do not know is related more to lettuces than to the cabbage/broccoli family and thus tends to be easier to digest). So: Yum to the Yum, stuffed cabbage here I come! said...

Kale is the best invention since the Brussel sprout! Yeah, I'm overdoing it on the cabbage this week. Enough said.

For me, it's broccoli. Ever since my second pregnancy, I can't eat broccoli. And I LOVE broccoli. But a piece hiding anywhere in food will stab me for hours.

Rima said...

In Lithuanian we call halupki "balandėliai" - "little doves."

Yum. said...

In Lithuanian we call halupki "balandėliai" - "little doves."

That's the prettiest name for cabbage. Ever. I'd name my daughter that.

It's Not Like a Cat said...

Where was this post when my CSA was bombarding me with cabbage? You'd think that the farmer dude would be shoveling them at us NOW, especially as he's a fan of growing what I call Eastern European hardship vegetables, but no, we got them back in August.

Maybe I'll have to hit the farmer's market and trade a few of my acorn squash for a couple of heads of cabbage.

Jeni said...

Loved this post -an ode to cabbage it could perhaps be named? But had to write and tell you about my 8-year-old granddaughter and my halupkis made for dinner the day of her first communion. Miss Maya does not like cabbage -or so she says -usually without ever tasting any of the good cabbage dishes (halupki, halushki, pepper slaw -all favorites of mine, her Grandmother of Scottish and Swedish descent, I might add too.) But anyway, while making my halupki, Maya appeared, asking me what I was cooking. I knew better than to say "cabbage" at all to her so I told her this was called "Pigs in a blanket." She nodded and disappeared. When we got ready to eat, she told me she would like to try a tiny bit of the pigs in a blanket so I split one between her and her 5-year-old brother, chopping it up as finely as possible with the idea there being she would have to ingest a teensy bit of the yummy cabbage then -like it or not. She ate, pushed most of the cabbage bits aside though and when she finished, she told me "I liked the filling, Gram, but I didn't much care for the blanket." (By the way, Miss Maya and her younger sibling are both autistic -which is another reason why I very much enjoy reading your blog and the comments you often post from your students!)
Anyway, keep up the great job you are doing -in school and here -with the recipes and such!

Magpie said...

I like it raw. I like it steamed with sour cream on top. I like it cooked in butter until it's brown around the edges. It's great stuffed. Hell, it's just great. said...

Lol! Jeni, that's a great story! And yes, I've tried to slyly "rename" certain ingredients to make them sound more appealing. Rarely can I trick anyone. :-)

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