Freezing Cabbage

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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 now to know that when grow too much of something it won't 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".

Float cabbages in water to drive out cabbage worms.

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.

Cutting cabbage heads into quarters

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...).

Quartered and cleaned cabbage ready to blanch

Blanch cabbage in boiling water for 3 minutes.

blanch quartered cabbage 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).

Chill blanched cabbage in cold water to stop cooking.

Once the cabbage is cooled, place it in a colander or strainer to allow as much water to drain off as possible.  Once it's drained, you're ready to package your cabbage for freezing.

Freezing Cabbage - Packaging

Pack blanched and drained cabbage into family serving size portions in freezer boxes, bags, or vacuum packing bags.  For us, that's usually a couple of pounds.

Pack cabbages in family sized portions.

We prefer to use our Food Saver vacuum packager for packing our cabbage. By removing air inside the bag, you reduce the risk of freezer burn, and increase the "shelf life" of your cabbage in the freezer.

Cabbage blanched, vacuum packed and ready to freeze.

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. 

We use an industrial sharpie permanent marker to label packages going into our freezer.  The ink in these markers seem to be more durable than any other we've come across - even outlasting the standard sharpie markers.

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.  It'll be a bit "limp" when thawed, so you can't eat it like you would fresh raw 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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Related Links

Growing Cabbage

Making Sauerkraut

Vegetable Gardening

Freezing Food

Freezing Basics