Here’s one of the greatest, trusty winter side dishes of all time, along with aquavit beets with sour cream and potato Dauphinoise. Back when I was dreaming up dual 3-course tasting menus, 4 a la carte entrees, and 4 individual sides, new, every day for the Heartland menu in St. Paul, cabbage with bacon and caraway saved me valuable prep time during the winter, and took off some the heat during busy weeks. There’s just no reason not to love it. It has a profit margin, an idiot could prep it, and, it will sell, sell, sell. Everyone loves cabbage and bacon.
The version you’re looking at is a little less mass-produced, and a little more personal than what I used to make, with the pork bacon and caraway from a shaker replaced with homemade venison bacon and foraged caraway from the Minnesota North Shore. More than anything though, this is my go-to example I tell people to make after I’ve convinced them to make their own venison or lamb bacon.
Venison bacon, *real* venison bacon, is almost unknown in the hunting-charcuterie world, and usually refers to this sort of rural meatloaf thing made with ground venison and pork bacon. To be clear, that stuff is not bacon. Real bacon, must come from a complete muscle, one that is preferably dry-cured. For small ruminants, that can be anything from a boneless short rib, to a flank, a brisket/breast, or the true belly, just like you’d use on a pig. If you need a refresher, I have a solid lamb/goat/deer bacon recipe here (you can substitute brown sugar for the maple sugar) but commercial pork, preferably dry-cured and in slab form is just fine too.
A great use for wild seeds
This is another really good vehicle for wild seeds too, dried or fresh: fennel, chervil/mitsuba, angelica, and probably plenty of others from the Apiaceae I don’t know about too.
Cabbage with Venison Bacon and Wild Caraway
- 1.5 lbs green cabbage
- 4 oz venison bacon about 1 heaping ½ cup roughly diced
- 1 teaspoon lightly toasted wild caraway seed
- 2 tablespoons lard or cooking oil
- ½ medium onion thinly sliced, about ½ cup
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup meat stock or water
- Cut the cabbage into manageable wedges, then shave, (hold onto the root) on a mandoline or use a sharp knife.
- Sweat the bacon in the oil, until beginning to crisp. Add the onion and sweat. Do not allow the onion to color—add a splash of water or stock if it threatens to caramelize.
- Add the cabbage, stock, caraway and salt, cover, bring the mixture to a simmer then turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is just tender, but not mushy. Serve.