How many of you just LOVE cabbage? I must say that it took me some time to learn to say that I love cabbage. I think that it is more what I know about cabbage- than my taste buds- that makes me love it.
A friend of mine who came from Indonesia introduced me to the many health benefits of cabbage a few years ago. She said “When you grow up in real poverty, you learn to make the most of everything that you eat.” Her family grew cabbage, lots of it because of its health benefits. They ate it raw in salads, they ate it in soups and they fermented it.
Regardless, her respect for cabbage wore off on me. I have found it to be one of the most hardy vegetables in my garden. I grow it from seeds in cardboard coffee cups. I grow napa cabbage to harvest the leaves early, and the head varieties that hold up well in the fridge. When they are ready to go into the garden; I just tear out the bottom and plant the cup. The cardboard ring around the transplant protects the stem from cutworms. If I see evidence of the cabbage looper, then I use Bt spray- which has long been considered an organic weapon. Just do not breed it with my corn!
Right now, I am harvesting lots of the napa leaves. I use it in salads, I chop it fine for coleslaw and I even put a few leaves into my morning smoothies. But there is something truly magical that I do with all this cabbage that I have.
Because I make cheese from my raw goats milk, I have an abundance of whey. Now we all know that whey is magical stuff on its own. I use it in breads, in my smoothies, I give it to the animals too. But I always keep a big jar in fridge for doing magical things.
What is this magic that I am referring too? Why-it is fermentation. Whey has a culture of good bacteria in it. I can use that culture to start another batch of cheese, or to ferment my veggies.
This is how I do it. I have 1 gallon sized bags of the cabbage leaves in the fridge. I just cannot consume them all, so I chop up the cabbage and put it in my big stainless steel bowl. Then I add 1/4 cup of whey, and 1 tblsp of sea salt. I mix it with a big wooden spoon and let it sit for a while.
In chemistry class, I learned about osmosis. When salty water is on the outside of a semipermeable membrane and water is on the inside, the water will flow to the outside in order to make both sides of the membrane equal in water concentration.
What does this mean for our cabbage? After allowing the salty cabbage to sit for a few minutes, I come back to find that my cabbage has leaked its juice out and mixed with the salt and whey.
Now, I pound my cabbage with a heavy wooden spoon in a chopping motion. This pulverizes the cells of the cabbage and makes it release even more juice.
After that, I pack the cabbage and juice into two-wide mouth quart jars and use small salad dressing bottles (that I have saved for this purpose) to weigh the cabbage down under the surface of the whey and juice mixture.
Now I put a towel over the top to keep the dust out, and put a rubber band around the whole mess.
What happens now is completely out of my hands. It truly is magical. It will stay on the counter for 3-4 days. The bacteria in the whey will cause fermentation to take place. I do not understand it all, but people have been doing this for centuries to increase the nutrition value in the cabbage -and to keep it from going bad without refrigeration. I am told that this is very gut protective and that a spoonful of this magical brew should be eaten before every meal to prepare the gut for digestion.
Whatever! I have lots of cabbage and whey. I am doing it! I am making several jars as a matter of fact to share as well. Besides all the little jars with white dishtowels rubber banded around their heads look like a bunch of friendly little ghosts.
Just in time for Halloween.