With my reference point being the Sonoran desert, I’ll say that so much of Poland is farmland. Any drive outside of the city will have you passing cultivated earth. Beautiful yellow fields of flowering rape weed, beets, carrots, and the largest cabbage I have ever seen, seriously, cabbage the size of basketballs. Cabbage is the number one vegetable crop in Poland. It’s so popular; it plays a role in most traditional Polish dishes, and even in some that aren’t so traditional. Think of gołąbki (stuffed cabbage leaves), bigos (a hearty hunter’s stew), cabbage based pierogi fillings, kapusta kwaszona (sauerkraut), cabbage on a hot dog, cabbage on a kabab, even a simple Polish cabbage salad like this one. It’s the sort of thing you’ll find in any buffet line, or served along side your main dish. It reminds me of coleslaw, but it’s lighter, more salubrious.
In this case, the shredded cabbage is lightly cooked (chemically) in lemon juice and salt, just enough to wilt it a bit. The addition of shredded apple and a smidge of powdered sugar, along with the lemon juice, add to the sweet and sour combination that I associate with coleslaw. I made this according to the recipe, but if I’d had a carrot, I would have shredded that too to add a bit of color. The recipe comes from Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans, published by Polanie Club In Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was first published in 1948. The used copy I have is from the 15th printing in 1973. I saw something online about a 25th printing, so it’s been a very popular cookbook for decades!
This Polish Cabbage Salad is just what I remember from our time in Poznan. I’ve tried to recreate it on my own, but it was never quite right, the texture, the subtle favors that complement the cabbage. I’m thrilled to be adding this recipe to my collection.
As for the actual preparation, I used the slicing blade on my food processor, but it left the cabbage in bigger pieces that I wanted, so I popped it back in the processor with the steel blade and blitzed it for just a second or two to get finer pieces. I had planned to use a Granny Smith apple, but forgot to buy one. The Gala apple I had on hand, worked very well. I didn’t have any dill seed in the spice rack, but I did have an envelope full of dill flowers that had gone to seed in a cupboard waiting to be planted. So I picked out the fine little stems and managed to get the required 1/2 teaspoon.
Give this a try, I think you’ll find a lot of menus that would benefit from a serving of this light and crisp Polish Cabbage Salad.
- 1 small head cabbage, finely shredded
- juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 apple, grated
- ½ teaspoon dill seed
- Dash of garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (granulated will work too)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 small carrot, grated (optional)
- Mix the cabbage with the lemon juice and salt.
- Let stand for 4 hours or refrigerate overnight
- Add the apple, dill seed, garlic powder, sugar, oil, and carrot (optional)
- Toss lightly