Jul 6, 2023
Saw a great deal on cabbage but refused because you couldn’t stand it going to waste? Here’s how to freeze dry cabbage to take advantage of an awesome sale and have it shelf stable for decades.
There are many varieties of cabbages you can choose from. There’s green, purple, circular, or long. Believe it or not, Brussels sprouts are even a type of cabbage. So how would you choose which is the best one for freeze-drying? The good news is that all varieties can be freeze-dried. You need to choose the best head because this will give you the best results. To select the best cabbage, here’s what you need to do:
The bigger the cabbage is, the milder the flavor. If you like a milder, sweeter-tasting cabbage, go for the big ones. The small ones have a stronger flavor, which can affect the taste of a dish.
Some cabbage heads in the grocery or farmer’s market will have extra leaves. These leaves aren’t good to eat and only add weight and unnecessary expense. Choose a cabbage head that’s free of the extra leaves.
Fresh, succulent cabbage is heavy for its weight. Weigh a cabbage in each hand of the same size as possible and choose the heavier one. A light cabbage means it’s been sitting out too long and, therefore, flavorless.
The firmness and density of cabbage are indications of its freshness and health. Pick one that’s nice and solid, almost rock-hard. This means you have a vegetable with many layers of leaf in it. If it’s soft or has soft spots, don’t take it. A soft cabbage may be one that’s been left out for too long or is rotten inside.
Pick the one that has a smooth surface, with leaves having a crisp, nice sheen or luster. The surface should be free from gauges, black spots, or holes.
The best time to observe these cabbage qualities is between November and April. The sweetest cabbage you’ll get is one harvested after frost. If you’re picking cabbage from a farmer’s market, ask if frost happened before harvest.
It’s easy to prepare cabbage for freeze-drying. Here’s how to do it.
The first step is to trim out the outer leaves, whether they’re the extra or outer layer. These extra and outer leaves are okay to eat but need careful preparation. If you don’t know how it’s okay to discard it. The outer leaves also have made contact on many surfaces and are often wilted. It’s best to discard the outer leaves and use the inner leaves for freeze-drying.
After trimming, you can cut the cabbage in quarters. If it’s small, half is just fine. What you need is to expose as much of the inner leaves as possible. After cutting, inspect the inner leaves for insects and blemishes.
If ever you see a cabbage forming a flower inside, discard it. That cabbage has bolted and reached past maturity. It won’t taste as good and will have a bitter flavor. It may seem like a waste, and we agree. However, freeze-drying can also intensify the flavor of the vegetable. If you have bitter cabbage, you’ll notice the flavor even more after the process.
You’ll see a dense, opaque structure at the center, right at the bottom of the head. That’s the core where the leaves emerge. If this is your first time handling the vegetable, keep it as it keeps the leaves together. Just go around it as you shred the head. But if you want to remove it, make a V cut along the core. This will loosen the leaves but make cutting the vegetable into squares easy.
Once you cleaned and trimmed the head, you can process the cabbage. You can cut the leaves in squares like you would when making coleslaw. After processing, transfer the leaves to your freeze-dryer tray.
Just remember not to pile it up too high. The layer shouldn’t go above the lip of the freeze-dryer tray for you to get an even, efficient freeze-drying process.
Pre-freezing cabbage isn’t necessary, but it can help. However, you need to know that just like basil and spinach, the leaves are delicate. They’re prone to condensation damage caused by repeated freezer door opening and closing. Flash freezing using food-grade dry ice or liquid nitrogen will help preserve the cellular structure. We know this is expensive and should only be done after careful research. But since you already have your freezer running, why not use it?
For pre-freezing, it’s best to keep the door undisturbed for at least 48 hours. This way, ice crystals form evenly throughout the leaves, and you have lesser damage from ice crystals.
Once everything is ready, it’s time to start freeze-drying. We’ll do two versions for now. One is for those with the old software, and the other is for people with the new/updated one. You’ll know your software version by looking at the upper right corner of your screen.
Depending on how much food you have, freeze-drying can take 24-36 hours.
If you’ll use freeze-dried cabbage in soups and stews, there is no need to rehydrate it. It will absorb the liquid in your food as it cooks. Add more water as it acts as noodles, absorbing water as it goes.
If you plan to use it for salads, you only need a small amount of water. You could start with a ratio of 2:1. For every two parts of cabbage, use one part of water. So, if you’re rehydrating 20 grams of cabbage, use 10mL of water. It will take 2-3 minutes to reconstitute on warm water and 5-10 minutes in cold.
Properly stored freeze-dried cabbage will last you for 25-30 years. You can use Mason jars for short-term storage or on-demand use. For long-term storage, you can use Mylar bags. Before sealing, put in 1-2 of the 300cc oxygen absorbers for every gallon size of your container.
After sealing, store in a cool, dry, dark place. Keep the temperature lower than 72°F (22 °C). Also, maintain the relative humidity at 15% or less.
Cabbage is a very versatile vegetable and can be used in many ways. Especially when you freeze-dry it. It may not be ideal for snacking like a freeze-dried fruit. But once rehydrated, it can give you the healthy meal your family deserves.
What kind of cabbage are you freeze-drying? Let us know in the comment section.
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