Buttered Cabbage

buttered cabbage

buttered cabbage

Supermarkets are rolling out mountains of green cabbage, bakeries icing cupcakes luminous green, to tempt Americans who plan to eat corned beef and raise a ruckus on St. Paddy’s Day. Meanwhile, from Dublin to Dingle, families will have a quieter bank holiday, go to church, and settle around a roast turkey dinner. Legends of fifth century St. Patrick abound as he brought the gospel to native Celts, drove snakes out of the Emerald Isle, and used the three-leafed clover to explain the Trinity. Corned beef is more American than Irish, and it was promoted by our East-Coast Irish immigrants, who salted cheaper cuts of beef to emulate their version of bacon: brined pork loin.

Even now at least a decade after Ireland’s food renaissance, many don’t realize the bounties of goodness that await the traveler. Americans who think an Irish dinner means boiled potatoes and soggy cabbage will have a jaw-dropping experience due to Ireland’s culinary revolution. The island’s patchwork of green pastures produces the best of butter, farmhouse cheeses to rival the French, garden produce nurtured in the rain, grass-fed beef and lamb, the freshest seafood, and the world’s premium smoked salmon. Common Irish veggies like potatoes and cabbages are way ahead of what we buy in our winter markets. Ireland’s mild climate allows harvesting to continue pretty much year round. Farms border towns and cities, so produce doesn’t travel far. Spuds are dug close to selling time, come to market with dirt still on them, and have such rich flavor they can easily be the “center of the plate.” Sweet green cabbage is seldom simmered in lots of water until soft; instead, it’s shredded, cooked with a little butter for just a few minutes.

We’ve shied away from cooked cabbage after bad experiences with the mustard gas smell from overcooking. Quickly prepared cabbage is a distinct vegetable experience—it’s for more than coleslaw. This week, why not buy a crisp green head, shred and quick-cook one of the tastiest (and cheapest) greens. Your Irish eyes will be smiling.

Buttered Cabbage

2 pound head fresh green cabbage

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter

4 fl. oz. water

additional tablespoon butter if desired

Quarter the cabbage, cutting from the top through the core. Cut away the core and thinly shred the cabbage. There will be about 8 cups shredded cabbage.

In a heavy four-quart pot bring 4 fl. oz. water, 2 tablespoons butter and a good pinch salt to a boil. Add half of the cabbage turning it in the hot butter with a tongs. Add the second half of cabbage and combine it with what you’ve buttered. Cover and cook over moderately high heat for 5-7 minutes, turning it a couple of times with tongs. Add a little water if cabbage seems dry. When it’s tender, taste for seasonings, adding more salt if needed, and stir in another tablespoon of butter. Serve it, sweet and tender, to 4-6.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon




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