I knew someone who used to give one of their organic farmer friends a hard time, saying, “you know, it’s not a new idea.” While this was always amusing to witness, it was also very poignant. We have lost so much knowledge from our past. All of these new trendy foods and diets are most certainly “not a new idea.”
The more I come up with these “brilliant” seasonal recipes, the more I realize that all of inspirations are coming from the wise grandmothers of our generation and beyond. One vegetable in particular that has stood out among all the rest is Cabbage. We have an infinite amount of recipes; roast cabbage, stewed cabbage, fermented cabbage, fried cabbage, cabbage in dumplings, cabbage in soup, and I’m sure a beautiful grandmother somewhere out in the world is probably saying “you forgot one!”
As the cold winter months wrap themselves around us, I find myself digging deeper into these recipes, the produce is lacking and for many, New Year health resolutions are looming over us. Take a deep breath, listen to your nana’s, oma’s, abuela’s, lola’s, bubba’s or whoever your elders may be. Listen to mother earth, eat with the seasons, eat with what she has to offer. It will feel good.
I’m writing from London ON, that is knee deep (without exaggeration) in snow right now. Farmers have apples, cabbage, root veg, winter squash and a few hardy souls may have kale or spinach. Grains, nuts and seeds are also reflective of seasonal food, although hardly seasonal, given that most are imported from areas other than our own, a sad reality. If you are fortunate enough to have access to healthy and happy meat options, winter is the best time to break out hardy bone broths, rich stews and maybe a pulled pork sandwich or two.
Here is a recipe I made a while back that I can not get over how fulfilling it was. It is normally made with pork and there are a LOT of really good recipes out there involving said pork. The stew is a polish hunter stew called, Bigos. I always like to show a meat free option though because, quality meat is hard to come by and for most people not eating it is simply the best option they have. I recommend that if you are going to omit the meat, you at least splurge on some nutritious bread to go with it. (Another not so new idea: wholegrain sourdough).
This is a pretty hefty recipe and is best done in a slow cooker. Prep it the night before, plug it in in the morning before heading out and come home to wonders. It makes a very large amount, so make room in your freezer if you are flying solo. Slow and old food takes time, they had more of it back then. While taking advantage of the wisdom, try and find ways to allow these recipes to fit into your life. Maybe this recipe won’t and thats okay, move on, forgive yourself. (Try roasting cabbage and sprinkling salt on it, eat it with rice and sausages instead)
· 1 head green cabbage, chopped
· 1 tall can of dark lager beer
· 1/2 cup cider vinegar
· 1/4 cup maple syrup (honey, or sugar works too)
· 4-5 bay leaves
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 3-4 onions, chopped (about 6 cups)
· 12-14 ounces mushrooms of choice, chopped (about 4-5 cups)
· 1 whole head of garlic, minced
· Sea salt
· 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
· 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
· ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
· 8-10 whole allspice berries
· 1/2 cup gin
· 4 cups sauerkraut, well drained (salt fermented not vinegar pickled)
· 6 ounces tomato paste (1 small can or about 10 tablespoons)
1) Put the onion and fresh cabbage into the pot and sauté with oil for a few minutes, stirring often, until the cabbage is soft. Sprinkle a little salt over them. The vegetables will give off plenty of water, and when they do, use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
2) Add the tomato paste here. Once the cabbage and onions are soft, remove from heat and set aside.
3) Saute the mushrooms and garlic. Cook them with additional oil, stirring often, until they release their water. Once they do, sprinkle a little salt on the mushrooms. When the are finished cooking, add to cabbage and onions. Mix together.
4) Add, sauerkraut, beer, syrup, vinegar, gin, and spices.
5) You should not have enough liquid to submerge everything. That’s good: Bigos is a “dry” stew, and besides, the ingredients will give off more liquid as they cook.