Cabbage consists of the foliage of the cabbage plant. It is a succulent vegetable with a high flavor; in fact, its flavor is so strong that in many cases it disagrees with persons. However, if cabbage is properly cooked, no apprehension need be felt about eating it, for it can be digested by most persons. The food value of cabbage is not high, being even less than that of string beans. The greater part of this food value is carbohydrate in the form of sugar, but in order to prepare cabbage so that it has any importance in the meal, considerable quantities of protein, fat, and carbohydrate must be added. In itself, it is valuable for its mineral salts and bulk.
Numerous varieties of cabbage can be procured, but only three are commonly used. These include white cabbage, which is used the most; purple cabbage, which is very dark in color and contains varying shades of red and blue; and Savoy cabbage, which has a large number of green crinkled leaves and is commonly cooked by boiling.
Heads of cabbage that feel firm and solid to the touch and are rather heavy for their size are the best to select for cooking purposes. This vegetable comes into the market early in the summer and may be had until late in the fall. As it has excellent keeping qualities, it may be stored for use as a winter vegetable. When this is done, the stem and the roots should be allowed to remain on the head, for then the cabbage is less apt to wither. If this precaution is taken and the cabbage is stored in a cool place, no great care is required to keep it in good condition until it is to be cooked unless, of course, it is kept for an abnormal length of time.
To prepare cabbage for cooking, remove the outside leaves and then cut the head that remains into pieces of any desirable size. Whether the cabbage should be left in large pieces or cut very fine depends on the dish that is to be prepared. For the first cutting, be sure to cut the head down through the heart and the stem, so that the part not used will remain intact. This may then be used another time if it is kept cool and moist. In case the cabbage becomes at all wilted, it may be freshened by placing it in cold water a short time before it is to be cooked.
Cabbage is a vegetable that has many uses and is eaten both raw and cooked. Numerous opinions exist about the difference in digestibility between raw and cooked cabbage, as well as the best ways in which to cook this vegetable. It may be true that in some cases raw cabbage does not cause the disagreeable effect that cooked cabbage often does, but the reason for this is that cabbage when raw has a milder flavor than when cooked, cabbage generally developing during the cooking a strong flavor that causes trouble. The flavor of cabbage, however, may be dissipated if attention is given to the cooking, so that, when properly prepared, cabbage can be eaten with little fear of indigestion.
When cabbage is cooked, it is usually boiled like other vegetables; that is, it is covered well with boiling water to which 1 teaspoonful of salt is added for each quart, and then allowed to boil until it can be easily pierced with a fork. Its cooking differs, however, from that of many vegetables, string beans, for instance, in that it is carried on with the cover removed from the kettle. This plan permits of the evaporation of much of the strong flavor, which arises in the steam and which would otherwise be reabsorbed by the cabbage. Since it is the retention of this flavor, together with long cooking, that causes this vegetable to disagree with persons who eat it, both of these points should be carefully watched. If it is cooked in an open vessel and it is boiled just long enough to be tender, so that when done it is white and fresh-looking and not in any way discolored, an easily digested dish will be the result. Usually cabbage will cook sufficiently in 1/2 hour and often in less time.