Country smothered cabbage in a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch oven.
“I can’t wait to eat some cabbage” is not something you hear often, if ever. We’ve been saying it a lot lately because we’ve been reading Southern cookbooks and cabbage is EVERYWHERE. A great example is super star Loretta Lynn’s Country Fried Cabbage from her fun cookbook You’re Cookin’ It Country (Rutledge Hill Press, 2004). It’s simply a head of cabbage, onion, and a lot of bacon that Loretta says makes just four servings. She must be feeding some big eaters out there at Hurricane Hills.
Our country smothered cabbage is a simple cabbage dish seasoned with a little bacon, onion, and garlic in a cast iron Dutch oven and it makes a fantastic comforting side to go with pretty much any grilled meats.
Loretta loves her cabbage dishes. In her headnote to Country Fried Cabbage she says her favorite meal is baked pork chops, black-eyed peas, fried potatoes and onions, country fried cabbage, and coleslaw. That’s a hot and a cold cabbage dish in one meal!
Cabbage is the unsung Southern vegetable hero, ignored by food media more interested in “glamorous” Southern hits like greens, biscuits, and country ham. Cole slaw gets noticed occasionally, but only because it’s riding the coattails of some notable barbecue, not because it’s cabbage. If you are a slaw fan, then definitely make our Pico Slaw to stuff into your tacos. It’s a game-changer.
Middle Tennesseans have enjoyed a longterm relationship with cabbage. It’s a vegetable garden staple and harvesting cooks throughout the area have been fermenting kraut and making chow chow relish for generations.
Beyond slaw and under appreciated smothered cabbage it’s magic in a creamy cabbage casserole, a dish we’d never had before working on the Jack Daniel’s cookbooks with Lynne Tolley and her mother Miss Margaret Tolley. They told us the funniest story about Miss Mary Bobo of Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House in Lynchburg, TN. Whenever the folks at the distillery (Jack Daniel’s of course) called to say more guests were coming for midday dinner, Miss Mary would holler back in the kitchen to “stretch it!” meaning, get more cabbage casserole or slaw on the table pronto!
Another plus is that cabbage has a steel-belted shelf life, staying fresh in the refrigerator for weeks. We don’t think about this so much now, but in the root cellar days of putting food up for the winter, stored heads of cabbages sustained folks until spring.
Country Smothered Cabbage
1/4 pound bacon (about a 1/4 of a package) cut into small chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, diced
1 head green cabbage, cut into slices
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel and set aside. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat, about 5 or so minutes, then add the garlic and cook an additional 2 or so minutes. Add the cabbage, stir to coat the cabbage in oil, cover and cook over medium low heat about 40 minutes or until tender. Top with cooked bacon and season with salt and pepper. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Double the recipe as needed.