Friday, May 18, 2012

Cooking With Coles

Some of my favorite ways to eat broccoli, and cauliflower are fresh from the garden in salads or as a vegetable tray, or steamed lightly as a side dish.  Obviously those are the easiest ways to make them, but sometimes you have to get creative to get a whole harvest eaten before it's too late; or you need to preserve them for later in the year.

My all-around favorite way to use up brassicas is Colcannon.  Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper added. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives.  It is an Irish food, and is traditionally served on Halloween.
  • 1 pound cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch ground mace
  • 1/2 cup butter
  1. In a large saucepan, boil brassicas until tender; remove and chop or blend well. Set aside and keep warm. Boil potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
  2. Chop leeks, green parts as well as white, and simmer them in just enough milk to cover, until they are soft.
  3. Season and mash potatoes well. Stir in cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the vegetables and heat until the whole is a pale green fluff. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix well.
Colcannon pretty much amounts to mashed potatoes and veg.  It is very tasty and can use up pretty much any cole crops you have in excess, it also freezes well for use during the winter when you may feel like something warm and hearty but not feel like spending the time to cook it.

Since I usually eat my broccoli fresh or steamed with little additional flair I don't have a broccoli-only recipe to share, but the recipe below looks good and i plan to try it out when the broccoli are ready.

Awesome Broccoli-Cheese Casserole

For a change in tempo, this is a spicy recipe from India for cauliflower.  The recipe I found online has several vegetables in it, but the proportions can easily be adjusted, for cauliflower bhaji just replace the potatoes with more cauliflower.

Indian Vegetable Bhaji

No one in my family likes coleslaw, except my husband.  He is a slaw fiend and after much browsing last year I found the perfect recipe for him.  There are several comments about this recipe being too sweet, so if you try it you may want to put in about half the sugar initially, then add a bit and taste until it is the sweetness you prefer.  Coleslaw is a great way to use up cabbage, especially since cabbage doesn't freeze well.

Sweet Restaurant Slaw

For fresh use these recipes are some different ways to use your harvests.  The colcannon, bhaji, and casserole should even freeze well.  Now what do you do when you have so much harvest you can't eat it all before it goes bad? Or if you want to save some for later in the year?

 Cabbage is not very freezable as far as I know, it can be preserved as sauerkraut though.  I've never tried this, but my sister has and apparently sauerkraut is a hit or miss.  It is made by fermenting and canning the shredded cabbage.  If you have a lot of cabbage and no way to eat it before it spoils give sauerkraut a shot, but be warned it may just spoil rather than coming out right.  Cabbage can be frozen in recipes, like colcannon.

Broccoli and cauliflower should be picked early in the day, washed thoroughly in cold water, chopped into small pieces (florets), then blanched for 1-2 minutes in boiling water.  The broccoli will turn a bright green.  Immediately move the florets to ice water for a couple minutes to stop the cooking process.  Drain the florets and place in freezer bags; if you want to do gallon freezer bags, freeze the florets in a single layer on cookie sheets first then bag them.  This keeps them from becoming one big mass of frozen vegetable, and makes removing a serving size easier.  Label with the name of the vegetable, variety (if you are doing more than one variety), and the date. 

One other way to preserve cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower is as pickled vegetables.  Picalilli is a well-known type of pickled mixed vegetables.  There are dozens of different recipes available for pickled vegetables, personally I'm not a fan.  Though I do like Refrigerator Pickled Vegetables, but they don't help much when it comes to preservation.

A good book to check out for recipes and directions for preserving any harvest is Putting Food By, which even includes directions on root cellaring and drying brassicas.

And lastly, since I didn't discuss it on the culture post we will cover seed saving from brassicas.  After flowering, leave flower stalks on the plant until they make seed pods that are nearly dry, before they dry completely cut the stalks off and place in a large paper bag, seed pods down.  Leave the bag in a warm, dry area for a few weeks, you'll know they are ready when a gentle touch will cause seeds to drop from them.  Strip the seeds and pods off the stem into the paper bag.  Remove the stem and shuffle the rest around in the bag, this should loosen up any seeds still attached to their pods.  Get a clean dry bucket and set it outside on a day with a nice breeze.  Slowly pour the seeds and chaff into the bucket from about a foot above it.  As they pour the chaff will be blown away by the wind and the seeds will drop into the bucket.  If you still see chaff, dump the bucket back into the bag and repeat pouring.  Pretty quickly you will see only seeds.  Store seeds in a paper envelope or bag in a cool dry place, labeled with the species, variety, and year.  Brassica seeds will keep for up to 3 years.

If you have a brassica recipe or preservation technique you'd like to share, please leave a comment below.


  1. Thanks for posting the recipe for colcannon. It sounds interesting (I've never tried it) so I may have to try your recipe out!!

    1. I can never seem to follow a recipe perfectly, I always adjust it somewhat. Colcannon is basically just mashed potatoes with cooked greens blended in, so feel free to adjust it to what you like and what's available in your garden (or grocery). Hope you like it, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.