The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Cabbage, Kraut and Slaw

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1989

Issue: February, 1989

Traditionally Valentines are red, but this article is centered on a green one. "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach", we have often been told, and the way to my father's stomach is cabbage! Whenever my mother asks what he wants to eat, he has a standard reply, "Cabbage, kraut and slaw."

With "Cabbage, kraut and slaw" in mind, I wrote a love song poking a little fun also to this "way to a man's heart." Happy Valentine's Day to Mother and Daddy.

Cabbage, Kraut and Slaw
(A Love Song dedicated to James and Gladys Matthews, my parents)

When I was just a little boy
About the age of ten
My mother always would despair
When dinner time began.
All I ever wanted
Or That satisfied
Was good old mountain cabbage
Chopped or boiled or fried.

When I got a little older
And thought I'd take a wife.
I knew I needed someone
Who'd cook cabbage all her life.
I passed up girls who were merely pretty,
Passed girls who were merely smart.
But it was finally Gladys Irene
Whose coleslaw won my heart.

We've lived together now for over
Fifty years of wedded bliss.
She cooked cabbage twice a day
And served it with a kiss.
I've already ordered my tombstone
Although I'm not yet dead.
Carved in it in perfect glory
Is a great big cabbage head.

Oh, cabbage, kraut and slaw
That's all I want to eat
Cabbage, kraut and slaw
Never can be beat.
(With or without meat.)
(Oh boy, what a treat!)

If there are any women out there who would like to try your luck at "getting to a man's heart through his stomach," here are recipes for (what else?) Cabbage, Kraut and Slaw.

Fried Cabbage

Chop up a medium size head of cabbage into bite size pieces. Heat a black iron skillet and drop in a couple of spoonfuls of bacon drippings. Put in cabbage. Add salt, pepper and a sprinkle of sugar. Stir well to coat all of the cabbage with bacon drippings (oil). Cook over medium heat until as done as you want it, stirring constantly, serve with cornbread.

Country Kraut

Good country kraut is made in an earthenware crock. (The size of your crock will determine the amount you make.)

Cut up fresh cabbage in size and shape you like best for kraut. If it is shredded smaller, it will ferment faster. When you have it chopped, add salt to your taste and squeeze it in your hands to thoroughly bruise it. Keep doing this until you have the cabbage packed down tight in the crock and it has released enough water to cover itself. Then place a flat plate on top of it and sit a milk jug full of water, big rock or any heavy object on top of the plate. This is to keep the cabbage under the juice. It will turn brown if it isn't under the juice. Cover and sit in a fairly warm place until it is fermented as sour as you like it. It should be clear and transparent looking instead of white. If you like, you can add layers of hot peppers in the cabbage as you make it. Some people stick in the cabbage core as a special treat. When it is ready, fill clean canning jars, put on lids and can in water bath canner for about 20 minutes. My fathers family used to stuff green peppers with kraut and pickle the peppers too, which blends the tastes.

Freezer Slaw

1 medium cabbage head
1 teaspoon salt
1 carrot
1 green pepper
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed

In saucepan combine:
2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water

Boil one minute. Cool to lukewarm and pour over the cabbage mixture. Divide into portion sizes you wish in plastic bags and freeze.

Cabbage Mixture

Chop or shred cabbage, add salt and let stand one hour. Then squeeze all brine from cabbage. Add shredded carrot, green pepper, mustard seed and celery seed to cabbage. Pour liquid over cabbage mixture and place in plastic bags and freeze.