By Rosemary Martin, as told to Jasmine Mangalaseril
As the eldest of eight children to a Mennonite family in Waterloo County, Ont., Rosemary Martin helped her mother prepare “company meals” for up to 30 people every other Sunday for most of her life. Today, Rosemary’s Company Cabbage is a favourite that appears at family suppers and special meals with friends.
When I was growing up, we attended our home church every other Sunday; in between, we would visit another church in the area. For those weeks when we were at our home church, we would invite visitors for lunch, which was the main meal of the day. As our family alone was 10 people, plus two more similar-sized families or three smaller families were in attendance, there would easily be up to 30 for “company meals.” A casserole or stew, bread (always bread!) or rolls and butter were served, and we usually had green salads and jellied salads, too. I abhorred jellied salads, and my dad didn’t like them, either, but a lot of people did (it was a big thing back then). Desserts tended to be 13- by 9-inch pans of refrigerator or freezer desserts, and Mom loved to make chiffon cakes, so we would often have three. We wouldn’t mind if there were leftovers!
When it was just our family, we tended to eat fairly basic meals, partially because of our culture and partially because there were 10 of us. But they consisted of fresh or frozen homegrown vegetables and locally sourced meats—either smoked ham or summer sausage, and every now and then, a roast chicken or a roast beef.
I’m not a traditional Mennonite cook. As long as I can remember, I have liked a variety of foods and experimenting. I would beg Mom to vary from her routines because I quickly tired of eating the same foods three Sundays in a row. I learned more about food when I started eating out at higher-end restaurants with friends and by reading recipe books like they were novels with pictures. But I do credit my father for my plating skills. He always said, “Food first has to pass by my eyes before it reaches my stomach,” so I learned to serve food attractively from him.
I love cabbage in almost every form. I love cabbage soup and sauerkraut, of course. Growing up, cabbage was typically used in coleslaw or as wedges, cooked with roast beef or roast chicken. My grandma would pickle whole wedges with whole cloves or a pickling spice, vinegar, sugar and water. She cooked it until tender, marinated it in brine for several days, then kept it chilled. It was really good.
My Company Cabbage recipe is not a typical Mennonite recipe. I found it in a magazine and tweaked it over the years. You can do all the shredding and chopping the night before, then cook it in about five minutes just before serving. People are usually surprised they like it because it’s cabbage, but it has a delicious unique flavour because of the nuts, the mustard and the dill. Savoy cabbage gives you that nice curly edge. That and the green onions combine so you have light springy-summery colours.
Company Cabbage, courtesy of Rosemary Martin
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
2 tsp (10 mL) chicken bouillon
4 cups (1 L) coarsely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
½ cup (125 mL) shredded carrots
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped celery root or celery
¼ cup (60 mL) sliced green onions or chopped shallots
½ tsp (2 mL) dried dillweed (or 1½ tsp/7 mL fresh)
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped pecans
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter
½ tsp (2 mL) prepared mustard
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) pepper
1. In large saucepan, heat 1/3 cup/75 mL water over medium-high; add chicken bouillon, stirring until dissolved. Add cabbage, carrots, celery root, green onions and dillweed, stirring to combine. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes, stirring slightly, until tender.
2. Stir together pecans, butter, mustard and pepper. Pour over cabbage mixture; tossing to combine.
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