Before I started freezing cabbage, I always planted too many plants. In my zeal to get a spring garden put out, I always seemed to plant more cabbage than we could possibly use fresh. I kept telling myself, "we'll use it ALL this year....". So we ate lots of raw cabbage, fried cabbage, baked cabbage, and coleslaw. We gave heads away, made sauerkraut, and still wound up chucking some of it onto the compost pile. Then ultimately we'd find ourselves BUYING cabbage during the rest of the year.
Then a friend told me how to freeze cabbage. They were freezing their excess and using it all year. After a little research, here's the method we came up with. It feels good to be able to grow something and not have it go to waste.
Freezing Cabbage - Blanching
Start with freshly harvested and cleaned cabbage heads. Most gardens have some cabbage worms (which are caterpillars of the white cabbage looper butterfly). This means that if you grow cabbage of your own or buy it from a farmer's market, you'll probably have to remove the outer leaves of the cabbage head to wash away the caterpillars and their "residue".
I'll usually float cabbage heads in a sink or bucket full of water for a couple of hours to drive out most cabbage worms.
Once heads are cleaned, cut them into quarters if they are small, or more pieces if needed for very large heads. DO NOT remove the core or heart of the cabbage, or the quarters will fall apart when blanching (this from personal experience...).
Blanch cabbage in boiling water for 3 minutes.
Transfer to a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. Blanching is not meant to cook food, but simply to kill bacteria, mold and fungi that can cause food to spoil over time, and also to destroy enzymes that cause most fruits and vegetables to continue to ripen, and change it's flavor (generally for the worse).
Once the cabbage is cooled, place it in a colander or strainer to allow as much water to drain off as possible.
Freezing Cabbage - Packaging
Pack blanched and drained cabbage into family serving size portions in freezer boxes, bags, or vacuum packing bags.
We prefer to use our Food Saver vacuum packager for packing our cabbage. Removing as much air as possible will help cut down on freezer burn over time.
Make sure to label and date packaged foods so you will know what it is, and when you put it up. It's always a good idea to use the oldest packages first to help maintain freshness.
Freezing Cabbage - Storage and Use
Frozen cabbage will keep in your freezer for a couple of years, before the flavor starts to seriously deteriorate. Even after that it can still be used safely. As far as I have found, there's no better way of preserving cabbage for long term use.
Frozen cabbage when thawed out will not be like fresh - remember it has been blanched, and frozen - both of which changes it's consistency. You can't eat it like fresh cabbage, but it can most definitely be used for any cooking recipe that calls for cabbage. Some of our favorites are sauteed golden brown cabbage and onions, and cabbage baked in foil. It can also be used in soups and stews, or just simple stewed cabbage.
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