Recently many people have discovered the joy of planting a vegetable garden. Few things are as satisfying as harvesting a crop of vegetables that you cultivated yourself. Fresh, crisp, delicious vegetables are the perfect complement to any meal and if you plan well, you can harvest different crops throughout the summer and even into the autumn. Canning is an excellent way to preserve the fresh taste of summer and though it has often been overlooked in the past, canning cabbage is healthy, nutritious, and can be accomplished with common kitchen equipment. By canning cabbage, it is possible to make delectable salads, coleslaw and other dishes throughout the year.
Start with only the best cabbage. Whether purchased at the local market or picked from your own garden, it should be fresh, crisp and free from any spots or other blemishes. Cabbage that is past its prime, such as may be limp or soft, should definitely not be selected for canning. The quality of the less than exemplary cabbage will not improve with the canning process and so should be either discarded or reserved for some other purpose.
Three or four heads of cabbage are probably enough to get a good batch of canned cabbage. This many heads will usually weigh approximately twelve pounds and should yield about five quarts or ten pints of pickled cabbage.
The cabbage should then be divested of its tough outer leaves. What remains should be thoroughly rinsed in the sink. Once the cabbage is rinsed, use a clean, sharp knife to quarter each head. Next, place each quarter into a food processor for shredding. If you don’t have a food processor, a cheese grater or a sharp knife will also accomplish this process.
Using a large glass or plastic bowl, begin layering the cabbage with ½ cup of salt, alternating layers until both salt and cabbage are gone. Cover the bowl and leave it on the countertop for 24 hours. The next day, the cabbage will be rinsed in a colander under cool water. Allow the cabbage to drain on paper towel lined trays for six hours.
In the meantime, the canning jars and lids can be sterilized. Either run them through the dishwasher on the sterilize setting or boil them for ten minutes on the stove top. At this point, it is also a good idea to set the canning pot to heating on the stove. Fill it with hot water from the tap and follow any manufacturer instructions to begin this process. Make sure your tongs and any other equipment are ready for use.
In a large pot on the stove, combine eight cups of vinegar with one cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup mace, and ½ cup of mustard seed. Do not heat this mixture yet.
In a spice bag combine two cinnamon sticks, ¼ cup cloves, ¼ cup allspice, ¼ cup whole peppercorns, and ¼ cup celery seed. Close the bag with a twist tie and drop it into the pot on the stove, which can now be heated to boiling. Cook for five minutes.
Fill the canning jars with the shredded cabbage, leaving ¼ inch of headspace to allow for expansion. Use a ladle to spoon the cooking liquid into each jar, allowing ½ inch of headspace.
Seal the jars, and using tongs, place them into the prepared canning pot which should be filled with boiling water. The cans will probably need to remain in the boiling water for approximately twenty minutes. Times may vary depending on your canning pot. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to verify.
Lift the jars out of the water using tongs and set them on the countertop to cool, probably overnight. Check to be certain they are sealed properly by pressing down on the lid. If this produces a popping sound, then it is not properly sealed and the jar should be re-processed with a new lid.