Food Snob Chronicles — Cabbage 101, and a nifty soup recipe

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. — H. L. Mencken, American journalist, satirist

Ah, cabbage. On one hand, it’s an Orwellian example of living within the confines of Big Brother. On the other, it’s the label on a very popular – and occasionally expensive – doll of the 1980s. So, what’s up with this head-shaped vegetable?

Many of us consider cabbage second only to potatoes as the national dish of Ireland. Perhaps, but the Chinese were scarfing it up 4,000 years B.C. And the Romans liked it too. Fast forward a few millennia to the Celts (a rough bunch at the time), who introduced Brassica oleracea to Asia Minor and the British Isles.

Did you know? Brassica (the botanical name) comes from the Celtic word bresic, meaning ‘cabbage.’

Cabbage came to America along with Jaques Cartier in the mid-1500s (he actually planted it in Canada). Still, it was a common crop in the U.S. within a couple hundred years — among both colonists and native Americans.

Why is cabbage so popular?
Well, the haves didn’t care for it back in the day. (It was considered to be peasant food.) But we have nots realized that cabbage grows just about anywhere, especially in colder climates. It’s doubtful that anyone knew about the importance of Vitamin C way back when, but cabbage (which contains a fair amount of Vitamin C) was a common menu items on the exploration ships in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But let’s be honest here. Cabbage is just good. Whether it’s fermented into sauerkraut or kimchi, stuffed into an eggroll, fried by itself or with potatoes … or served in a soup.

Cabbage, Italian White Bean & Sausage Soup

Cabbage, Italian White Bean & Italian Sausage Soup — Stick. To. Your. Ribs.

Cabbage, Italian White Bean & Italian Sausage Soup — Stick. To. Your. Ribs.

10 cups – Chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups (about 1/2 head) – Cabbage, sliced thinly
3 (about 12 oz) – Sweet or mild Italian sausage links, cooked and sliced into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup – Tomato paste
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 – Shallot, minced
1 tsp – Celery seed
1 tsp – Dried Basil
1/2 tsp – Dried Thyme
1 (15 oz) can – Cannellini (or Red Kidney) beans, drained and rinsed

1 TB – Extra virgin Olive Oil

Kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper

In a stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat; add garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add cabbage, stock, tomato paste, celery seed, basil and thyme and bring to a light boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add cooked sausage.

Simmer until cabbage is soft, about 20 minutes, then add beans. Bring soup back to a simmer. Season with Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper as desired.

Makes about 2 quarts.

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  1. Ah, cabbage. But with Italian sausage?. Who wouldn’t love this?

  2. Oh my gosh Adam, this soup looks so good! I just love soup. And since your kids don’t like it, more soup for YOU!

    • adamjholland says:

      Dang straight, Kathryn! I know that sounds selfish, but after 20-some-odd years of raising kids, I just don’t care that they prefer to eat pizza bites for dinner. 😉

  3. This looks creamy and delicious! Cabbage is verboten in this house because Mr. Picky Eater says he, “can’t stand to smell it cooking” but sometimes when he’s gone all day with the boys, I sneak in a dish or two – this should be on my list!

    • adamjholland says:

      I can understand the smell issue (although I think that’s a little dramatic), but it’s not an issue with this dish. You aren’t steaming or boiling cabbage here. You are adding the raw stuff to a soup. I promise you (Scout’s honor), there is no nose factor with this stuff.

  4. Your food looks good can you send me some of your recipes

  5. As a native German I love cabbage and sausages . Your soup looks great.

  6. I guess I have a love/hate relationship with cabbage. When I think of the boiled cabbage my mother used to make in the pressure cooker, I hate it. When I look at this with the other ingredients in this soup, I could love it. Dear Adam, do you think this makes me bi-polar?

  7. My hubby just prepared this. Must say it is very good!

  8. Thank you Mr. Cartier! I love the stuff. Which reminds me, I’ve been invited over to a client’s house who is going to show me how to ferment it. She has a strong Norwegian accent, so some of what she was saying was hard to understand… but it doesn’t sound like she’s seasoning it like sauerkraut, just fermented? It’s all vague …. Stay tuned, I’ll blog about it.

    • adamjholland says:

      Lucky you! Please do blog about it. Typical sauerkraut is salt and cabbage. But I know there are plenty of other add-ins.

  9. Heather Bradicich says:

    Kaputzi is the recipe made with Sauerkraut in our family. Pork diced and fried with garlic and s/p and olive oil … then when brown you cover it with a couple of large tins of sauerkraut, just cover with water, bring to the boil then put the lid on and simmer for 90 minutes… taste to see it is needs any more salt or pepper and there you have it….. GOLD! Serve with mashed potato and good Sausages of your choice. We use Bratwurst or the like… I am salivating as I write this.
    This is a Slovenian Recipe, but in
    Europe there are many variations. Pickled cabbage was a must in Winter if you got snowed in.

  10. Heather Bradicich says:

    P.S. Adam your soup looks lovely and is one of my favorite types of soup too. You have inspired me, I am off to the shop to buy the ingredients. Here in Australia it is very hot being Summer and this is usually something I make in winter, but soups are so tasty as is this one…. I’ll just turn on the air conditioning

    Ha ha!
    Many thanks from Heather in Australia

  11. Hey Adam, I Just wanted to let you know I’m going to make this for an easy Monday dinner in a couple of days. With kielbasa (that’s what I have right now) and beef broth (the beef stock instead of chicken because I have a 15-quart pot of it simmering right now!) Will report back! I was wanting something with cabbage and wanted to make your New Year’s dish but have to use up the kielbasa half-link before it gets freezer burnt. I’m still going to make that other one some day!!! 😛

  12. My husband and I are in the kitchen preparing this soup, smell soooo good!
    Buttering up some crusty bread to go along with this delicious soup~

    Thank you~

    • adamjholland says:

      I’m officially jealous. 😉

      • Prepared this soup last night, and my husband and I are ‘back in the kitchen’ fixin’ another pot!
        Oh! along with another loaf of french crusty bread 🙂

        Thank you again~

        • adamjholland says:

          Glad to hear it, Marie. Soup season is quickly bypassing us down here. But a baguette and some of this sounds pretty darn good for the coming week.

  13. Any idea on how well this soup would freeze?

    • adamjholland says:

      April – I’ve only refrigerated it for leftovers. I think it would freeze fine (I’d be willing to try it myself). Sorry. That’s all I have.

  14. Wow. That was delicious. And not to brag, no wait I’ll brag… my 5 year old son ate a bowl, cabbage and all and my 10 year old went back for seconds. My whole house is full of tawny not so scrawny lions, ha ha. Thank you for the recipe!

    • adamjholland says:

      Success story! (I love them!) Isn’t it great when you can sneak in something that the kids normally would refuse? Just yesterday, the boy and I were at a local grocer that was giving away samples of stuffed salmon. He loves fish — but only the flaky mild varieties. I warned him that the flavor was more intense with salmon, but delicious. He ate it and actually liked it. Yay for me! (Because now there are two of us who’ll eat salmon, and that’s good enough to put it on a menu!)

    • My granddaughter loves Tawny, scrawny lion book. I use a recipe called ” Rustic Tuscan sausage, kale,bean soup.”
      Best you can imagine. I can’t wait to try this one. Love cabbage.

      • adamjholland says:

        This is one heck of a soup. I continue taking it to pot luck luncheons — and keep getting raves. (Haven’t had any left over to date.)

  15. Made this soup for dinner last night and hubby asked if we have enough left over for lunch today. Total success! This is a delicious, simple soup that will be a regular around our house all winter!! Thank you so much for this recipe!!

  16. Jayne Rose says:

    I’ll give this a try. This recipe reminds me of a great country minestrone, not the watery, tomato-based minestrones we see most of the time. When I lived in LA, there was an old northern Italian family restaurant that made minestrone very similar to your recipe. Loved it and I’ll probably love this one too!

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