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How to cook white cabbage

How to cook white cabbage

White cabbage is a divisive vegetable; it has a reputation for being mushy and sulphurous, much of which stems from a lack of understanding when it comes to cooking it. It's a great shame really, because when it is treated with care, white cabbage is wonderful – sweet, mild and earthy with a light crunch. It's also incredibly versatile – it can be shredded and eaten raw in salads or coleslaw, and you can pickle or ferment it too, as with sauerkraut and choucroute.

What to look for when buying white cabbage

White cabbage is at its best in December but is available from September onwards.

The light green leaves of white cabbage should be tightly packed in a round ball shape and the cabbage should be heavy rather than light. The outer leaves should show no sign of bruising or variations in colour.

How to cook white cabbage

As with red cabbage, white cabbage benefits from uncomplicated cooking techniques such as steaming or stir-frying. The most important thing to avoid is overcooking – this is when cabbage becomes mushy and starts to release sulphurous compounds which give off that cabbagey smell. Shredded cabbage leaves can be braised in a stock or white wine for around five minutes to retain a slight bite or for longer to bring out its natural sweetness.

Steaming is another popular method because both texture and nutrients are kept intact. Steamed cabbage has a delicate flavour which suits a light drizzle of sesame oil, melted butter or olive oil to finish. White cabbage can be steamed in 6-8 minutes.

White cabbage is the main ingredient in a traditional coleslaw. Again, some shop-bought coleslaws have given white cabbage a bad name. Making your own coleslaw couldn't be simpler, and it's a world away from anything bought in the shops. Just mix homemade mayonnaise with julienned carrots, celeriac, white cabbage and fresh herbs and you have a quick and brilliant accompaniment to many summer picnics and barbecues.

Sauerkraut is another love/hate white cabbage dish but the fact it’s made of fermented cabbage shouldn’t put you off - its sweet, tangy flavour and delightful crunch make it the perfect accompaniment for fatty meat dishes. Don't forget, of course, that lacto-fermenting provides lots of health gut bacteria too!

Have leftover cabbage from your Sunday roast? Why not make bubble and squeak by frying the cabbage with potato and any other leftover leafy green vegetables.

What white cabbage goes with

White cabbage is a delicious side dish for hearty winter dishes and roast meats. The robust flavour pairs brilliantly with smoked bacon, onions and thyme as well as whole spices such as cumin or nigella seeds. When eaten raw in coleslaws or tossed in salads, white cabbage is a great summertime ingredient – its mildly bitter flavour works well with barbecued meats such as duck or pork belly.

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