Quick Pickled Cabbage Salad
It took me a long time to become a fan of cabbage. In fact, most cruciferous vegetables were anathema to me as a young child, for their somewhat, um, gassy odor. Cabbage was nothing to me but the bitter, slightly wilted filler in salad bars, and the stinky, mayonnaise-clogged pile of coleslaw I avoided at picnics. I never realized you could cook cabbage, but my first taste of the vegetable braised, until it became silky smooth and almost sweet, was an eye-opener. These days, I’m starting to enjoy raw cabbage, but I still usually prefer it cooked until some of the harsh, raw flavor dissipates. However, summer is not the time for long, slow cooking, so yesterday, I decided to try something new. I decided to pickle.
There are a lot of recipes for pickled cabbage, and many of them looked very involved. Some involved long periods of salting and fermentation, but I wanted more fast and easy. This preparation isn’t fancy, and certainly some additional spices and complicated steps might result in something more complex and mind-blowing, but I am quite pleased with how it came out. And as part of a simple composed salad, it’s pretty spectacular.
This batch only sat for one night in the refrigerator, and I didn’t make much, so I’m not sure how long it will keep. I’m hoping to get my hands on more cabbage so I can find out. I expect it will lose some of the crispness and the sweetness. As a quick pickled dish, though, it’s got a great balance of sweet and sour, and the cabbage retains some firmness.
And it makes a great quick salad mixed with some grated carrot and a can of salad beans. If you have some feta or goat cheese, or perhaps some walnuts, they’d probably make great additions, as well. Let it sit for awhile so the brine from the cabbage can soak just a bit into the carrots. I used marinated salad beans, so there’s a hint of herbs and oil and garlic in here, too. If you can’t find marinated salad beans, add a clove of crushed garlic and some olive oil.
Quick Pickled Cabbage Salad
For the pickled cabbage
- 1 small head of red cabbage
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
For the salad
- 2-3 cups pickled cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 1 14-ounce can marinated salad beans
- black pepper
Slice the cabbage thinly and chop into bite-sized pieces, and place it in a non-reactive bowl. Stir the vinegar and sugar together in a saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the vinegar mix over the cabbage, and stir it a bit so the cabbage is submerged. Let the mixture cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
When you’re ready to make the salad, mix together a few cups of the cabbage (drain some of the brine off so it’s not swimming in liquid) and the beans. Grate the carrot and stir it into the cabbage. Add as much black pepper as you like, and stir it all together. Let the salad sit for a few hours in the refrigerator if you’d like, so the carrots soak up just a bit of the sweet-sour flavor of the cabbage. If you’d like, add a bit of olive oil and a clove of crushed garlic.
This is truly one of the best summer salads. It’s refreshing and tangy and cooling and crunchy and I suspect I’m going to be making a lot of pickled cabbage in the weeks to come. I’m hoping to try canning some over the next few weekends, so I’ll be sure to let you know how that turns out.
I spent the last week in Southern California, attending a wedding and spending time with my family and my partner. It was lovely, but hectic, and I ate out a lot. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend relaxing and making things, so hopefully there will be some good things to share in the coming week or two. Like ice cream and more salads and something lovely with the patty pans sitting in my refrigerator at this very moment. In the meantime, give this salad a try!