It’s time to start hoarding your winter produce.
At their best in late autumn, but they are still rolling into vegetable boxes, and surprise surprise they are still hearty and crisp.
To buy: Pick the heaviest whether you are buying large or small. The outer leaves of fresh picked red cabbage have a slight green tinge to the purple but if they are trimmed or halved, do not buy if outer leaves are slack and the white core (if visible) is browning.
To store: They keep well if stored in the vegetable crisper away from fruit.
To use. Unlike green cabbages, red cabbage responds to stern cooking methods. To retain that lovely vibrant red it needs an added acidic ingredient – vinegar, lemon juice or slices of tart apple which probably led to the idea of pickling the cabbage (more vinegar, more apple, onion, sugar, spices and low slow heat), but when I inadvertently tipped mint sauce (vinegar, sugar and chopped mint leaves) into the simmering pot it led to a kind of instant red cabbage pickle.
Very good with ham or cold lamb.
Garlic cloves – up to 3, chopped Light cooking oil About half a small red cabbage, core removed, leaves sliced/shredded finely 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar 1-3 teaspoons readymade hot mustard
About 1 Tablespoon capers, washed/drained, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped mint Scant teaspoon sugar Put the garlic and a little oil oil in a large pan and heat gently for a minute or two then add the sliced cabbage and vinegar, and stir over heat until starts to wilt. Remove from heat, add all other ingredients, stir well, and cover. Serve warm although it is also good served cold and pickle-like in a cold meat sandwich. It can be reheated. Frosts or not, local lemon trees are bending over with fruitfulness and it seems only right to put some away for a summery lamb dish.. No lemon tree at your place? Then maybe a neighbouring tree you could share. Failing that, buy commercially grown lemons but be aware that fruit in supermarkets will be waxed and the coating will need to be removed before you start. This recipe is a short cut with no precision slicing and stuffing with salt required but it is important to use enough salt and enough lemon juice. It is always a surprise how many lemons have to be squeezed to get enough juice so I make one small jarful at a time. To buy (or beg): Choose heavy NZ grown lemons which means they will be this season’s. To store: If using soon, keep on a flat plate on a sunny bench. If using ‘‘soon’’ keep in a dry place and use as soon as possible. Don’t refrigerate. To use: If the lemons have been waxed, dunk quickly into hot water then use a potato scrubber to remove the wax.
1 x 500ml sterilised glass jar with an airtight lid
At least 12 regular sized unwaxed or cleaned lemons Plain salt
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds (omit if necessary. Do not substitute ground coriander)
2-3 fresh bay leaves (dried leaves can be used) Cut six lemons into eight wedges. Squeeze the juice from six lemons. Remove and discard any pips. Put a layer of lemon wedges in the base of the jar, flesh side up. Cover with 2 (exact measure) teaspoons plain salt. Sprinkle in some peppercorns and coriander seeds. Add another layer of lemon wedges and press down. Cover with another 2 teaspoons salt, more spices and bay leaf. Continue until the lemon wedges and salt are just 2.5cm from the seal of the jar’s lid. Pour in the lemon juice using more (or less) to ensure the juice covers the lemon wedges and salt. Seal the jar. If using later (not ‘‘soon’’) keep in a dry place and use as soon as possible. Do not refrigerate. Check occasionally that the lemons remain covered. You should be able to use the whole wedges not just the rind.
Preserved lemons can be kept for months. Photos: Richard Cosgrove/ Fairfax NZ