Cabbage is almost as popular on St. Patrick’s Day as green beer! And that’s because cabbage ‚Äî unlike green beer! ‚Äî is a quintessential part of Irish cuisine (along with bacon and potatoes).
Tenant farmers in the 17th century were forced to pay substantial rents to their landlords, so they relied heavily on crops of cabbage and potatoes to get them through the year. The more prosperous farmers also grew pigs, so they were able to season their vegetables with the pork parts that weren’t needed elsewhere. When the potato famine hit, cabbage became an even more critical food source.
And so on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s customary to eat cabbage in some form. And fair enough. It remains one of the most affordable and durable vegetables around, a reliable source of something green in the colder months. And when paired with its old compatriot bacon, it’s actually pretty delicious.
Here the bacon is crisped up in a large, heavy pot, then some onions are quickly sauteed in a bit of the remaining fat. Then the cabbage is added, along with the beer of your choice, and in 30 minutes you have a dish that may be modest in cost and appearance, but quite grand in flavour. This would go very well with corned beef, but also with roasted chicken, salmon, a steak, or pretty much anything.
SIMPLE BEER-BRAISED CABBAGE WITH BACON
Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)
6 strips bacon, halved crosswise
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 medium (about 2 pounds) green cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
12-ounce bottle or can beer (any variety)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, turning as needed, 5 to 6 minutes in all. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan, then return it to medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the cabbage and toss occasionally in the pot for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the cabbage begins to wilt and is well mixed with the onions.
Pour in the beer and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and most of the liquid is evaporated. Crumble the reserved bacon and stir it into the cabbage. Serve hot or warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 140 calories; 80 calories from fat (57 per cent of total calories); 9 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 280 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 4 g protein.