Tender cooked cabbage with bacon, onion, garlic and caraway is one of the best winter side dishes I know.
People that don't like cabbage will come around after they try a good fried cabbage recipe. Everyone loves vegetables cooked with bacon fat.
A good recipe to feed a crowd
I used to create new side dishes every day when I worked at Heartland restaurant in St. Paul. Having cabbage as an option definitely took off some the heat my prep time during busy weeks. It's easy to make at home, and a good substitute for starchy sides like potatoes if you need some variation.
Optional special ingredients
The version you're looking at is less mass-produced and a little more personal than what I used to make. The pork bacon and caraway from a shaker are replaced with homemade venison bacon and foraged caraway from the North Shore.
This is my favorite recipe to share with people after after I've convinced them to make their own bacon at home.
Venison bacon is almost unknown in the hunting and charcuterie world. If you see recipes for it, they usually refer to a sort of meatloaf made with ground venison and pork bacon.
To be clear, that stuff is not bacon. The real deal 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 or breast.
I have a solid recipe for homemade bacon. But, if you have to you can use regular bacon from a grocery store. You should know that the bacon grease from venison bacon is more firm and less desirable than from pork. If you use it, make sure to serve the dish hot.
This is a good vehicle for wild seeds, dried or fresh. Fennel, chervil or mitsuba, angelica, and probably plenty of others I don't know about can work.
Using other types of cabbage
We would often use different types of cabbage for this. Fried red cabbage works fine too, as does caraflex, a variety that has the shape of a large cone.
Fried Cabbage with Bacon, Onion, Garlic and 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
- 1 small clove garlic finely chopped or grated
- Cut the cabbage into quarters or wedges, then shave, (hold onto the root) on a mandoline or use a sharp knife.
- Sweat the bacon in the oil on medium high heat until beginning to crisp. If you want it crisp, you can remove the bacon and add it back at the end.
- Add the onion and sweat for three minutes. Do not allow the onion to color. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes more on medium heat. 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, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes*, or until the cabbage is tender, but not mushy. Double check the seasoning for salt and adjust until it tastes good to you, then serve.