Monday, May 26, 2014

The great cabbage experiment continues

Earlier, I wrote about buying  cabbage at the flea market for cheap. a further pursuit of thriftiness,  we are sprouting cabbage cores. 
I didn't take any pics of the earlier process, because it didn't occur to me that I'd be blogging about it.

Regardless, it's pretty obvious by looking that I cut the cabbages around the core to leave it intact with a squared off stump of leaf bases.

This was all very pale when they were stood up in their plastic cups of water, but they green up quickly in their bright window.  And now they have roots and new leaves.

This one, i obviously cut off the original growing tip and it is sending up five new shoots at the top.   I'm sure I should pinch off the weakest leaving the strongest, but this is an experiment so I'll leave it to see what happens.

This one is putting out one head.

So, on this memorial day they go into the dirt.  No fancy process,  just dig a hole and stick them in and water well. 

as a general rule, in this climate, cabbage are planted in the spring and in late July.  The spring plants are harvested in July to August.  The fall plants are harvested in September to November, but maybe left to December if freezes hold off.

The spring cabbage may be uprooted, but it's common to just cut out the heads leaving the roots and leaves which will grow one to three smaller side heads, about the size of a grapefruit, which are actually the perfect size for a single meal.

This is kind of what I'm expecting from my sprouted cores.  Serviceable, but nothing spectacular...

Plants planted in July and August are almost always uprooted , in the fall, then hung upside down by their roots in a garage, shed, mud porch, etc.  Treated this way they store longer.  

I must say, it never occurred to me to save those roots for re-sprouting next spring, but its starting to.

Now, the big question...
"Why bother?"

I mean a head of cabbage is dirt cheap... literally... a bag of potting soil costs more than a head of cabbage.

And, if you're really intent on growing them, can't you just buy plants?

Of course I could, but one potted plant costs more than a head of cabbage...

Cabbage is, and always has been, inexpensive.  Historically, cabbage has been the basis of many diets, and has often been the only vegetable poor people had access to.

I guess that seeing how much cabbage I can get from those two heads is for some reason important to me.

I spent one dollar on three  heads, gave one away, and dagnabbit.  I'm gonna stretch that dollar as far as I can!  

Besides, I seem to be experimental by nature.  I just wanna see what happens.

Just some random shots from the yard

No reason for any of these... just bored today I guess

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Crinum Lillies

Crinum Lillies, aka confederate lily. Milk and wine, lady Lily among other names, are a southern favourite and their bloom session has begun. 


A couple of weeks ago, as the flea market was winding down on a Saturday afternoon a pick-up truck that had seen much better days pulled into our parking lot.  It was hauling a trailer behind it, loaded down with mesh bags of onions and cardboard produce cartons. 

The driver stopped for a few minutes, and evidently decided that they would do better elsewhere and started the process of turning around to leave.

Miss M stepped out of the concession stand and yelled to a vendor across the lot, "Hey Steve!  Catch him!"

Miss M is a classic Louisiana Cajun cook, and she has a very hard time cooking without onions.  She wanted them. 

As Steve flagged down the driver she quick-stepped across the lot with Elaine, Dennis and myself following. 

The truck was being driven by an older Mexican gentleman in a western shirt and black cowboy hat, accompanied by his handsome grandson who was acting as an interpreter. 

Soon, between the grandsons barely adequate English, and flea market vendors barely adequate Spanish, Miss M committed herself to a thirty pound bag of onions for six dollars, and other vendors began wandering over as Elaine and Dennis worked out an agreement to split a bag between them. 

Now, I wasn't so much interested in the onions.  Don't get me wrong, I like onions just fine, but thirty pounds of the things are more than I'm prepared to deal with.  Instead... I flipped open a produce carton and was confronted with about 20 pounds of fresh jalepeno peppers.  Nice... but the plants in the garden were providing all I need at the moment so I moved on to the next carton and found fresh untrimmed cabbages. 

Now a fresh untrimmed cabbage is an object of absolute beauty. 

Leaves that look like green covered with frost curl up and out, cradling the head and looking like an overzealous rose.  I've never understood why grocery stores trim off the outer leaves leaving a pale undersized soccer ball in the produce aisle.  It seems to me that they'd sell far more cabbage by leaving them in their natural, beautiful state.

As others poked in boxes around me, I reached into the carton and cupped a head in my hand to lift it out. 

Remembering the lessons drilled into me by my Mother, Aunts and Uncles on uncountable forays through farmers markets and harvests in gardens, I settled it into my left hand to gauge the weight, then pressed my right thumb into the side, before lifting it to my nose. 

Miss M, who was watching my inspection process with approval barked, "Any good?"

"About five pounds, hard solid, smells fresh... no rot..." I replied.

I caught the grandsons eye and asked, "Quantos?"

He quickly leaned his head into the passenger seat to consult with his elder, then replied, "Tres por un dolor."

"Three for a dollar?" I clarified.

"Si." he grinned at me. 

Well I was sold. 

Miss M called  over... "Pick me out three Claude."

Now... as I said before, thirty pounds of onions is more than I can deal with, and quite frankly fifteen pounds of cabbage is too.  There's only so much cole slaw, stir fried cabbage, stuffed cabbage leaves, stewed cabbage, etc, that a man can be expected to consume. 

I like the stuff.

I am descended from varied bloodlines. 

French, German, Jewish, Irish and Scottish ancestors all, no doubt, depended on cabbage as a wholesome affordable meal during hard times.  But enough is enough. 

Elaine, who had ended up with fifteen pounds of onions was more than happy to trade one of the heads.  I wanted three onions... but she gave me five. 

I came home with my produce and set them on the kitchen table while I showered and changed from grubby flea market clothes, and thirty minutes later I walked back into the kitchen to see the two beautiful heads of cabbage with the pearly white onions on the blue tablecloth, caught in the sun streaming through the window, and I have to say it did look like a classic Dutch master still life, but I also noticed that in the space of thirty minutes, the musk of the cabbage had filled the kitchen. 

As beautiful as it was... it was time to deal with them...

Time to cut them up.

The outer leaves were stripped off and discarded, and then I ran a knife down one side of the core.  The core of cabbage can be very hard... it's much easier to just cut around it than try to wrestle through. 

Then you lay the freshly cut side on the board, cut down the other sides, then another turn to finish.

You're left with a rectangular core.  More about that core later. 

In gave the leaves a rough chop and blanched them for 1 1/2 minutes in boiling salted water before dunking them in ice water, then separated it all into freezer bags.

I'll be eating it for months. 

Here's a couple of single guy recipes... fairly simple and quick

Simple stewed cabbage dinner...

Polish Sausage (or kielbasa or bratwurst, etc...)
1 large potato, pealed and quartered
2 cups frozen cabbage
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, put the potato, then layer on the the cabbage and then place your sausage on top.  Pour on 1 cup of water, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 

put all in a bowl and melt butter over the potatoes and cabbage, salt and pepper well and enjoy. 

Cabbage and Schmaltz

Skin and trimmings from 2 chicken thighs
2 cups frozen cabbage
small onion, sliced
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup water

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, and is traditional for many Jewish recipes.  If you're one of those people who buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, consider buying the cheaper bone-in, skin-on version... the bone isn't that difficult to remove and can be saved in the freezer to make soups.  Even if you don't want to make schmaltz, it takes less than 30 seconds to remove the skin and that more than makes the monetary saving worthwhile.  I'm using thighs, because they're more flavorful and I prefer them. 

After you remove the skin from your thighs or breasts prepare them with your favorite method, and use the cabbage as a side dish.

To make the schmaltz, take your chicken skins and any fat trimmings and cut them into 1 inch pieces.  Put them in a frying pan with a quarter cup of water and a pinch of salt, (Kosher salt, of course) over medium heat.  The water will begin the process of cooking the fat out of the skin, and when it evaporates the fat will be left behind to brown everything nicely. 

Remove the browned cracklings and set them aside. 

Place your onion into the schmaltz and cook until translucent. 

Add the cabbage, salt and pepper to taste, then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes, then serve with the cracklings on top. 

*  If you can't bring yourself to eat the cracklings... many can't, I assure you that the nearest cat or dog will have no such qualms. 

*  If schmaltz is too rich for you, use butter.  Not margarine.  Butter. 

*  The non-kosher version is to use 2 or 3 chopped slices of bacon instead. 

There are of course many, many recipes for cabbage and I've tried most of them at some point.  These
are just my old stand-bys edited down to single guy serving sizes. 

Now, about those cabbage cores I was talking about earlier... I told you I'd get back to them and here we are. 

A few weeks ago I read on the internet about people taking lettuces, celery, bok choy and such and sprouting new plants from the cores or stalks. 

So I took my cores and stood them in glasses of water, and lo and behold, they've sprouted roots.  I have no idea what's going to happen to them now. 

I'll update and take pics if I remember too... lol