GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

November 13, 2012

Smelling pretty: Cabbage recipe will please most noses, palates

I’ve spent the last couple of week’s trying to clean up cabbage’s malodorous profile. Cabbage is abundantly local and abundantly nutritious — a good source of thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C, K and B6, folate and manganese. Even organic versions of cabbage are relatively inexpensive.

According to Harold McGee in “On Food and Cooking; the science and lore of the kitchen,” the “cooked cabbage smell” is attributed to the plant’s two kinds of defensive chemicals: flavor precursors, or glucosinolates, which contain both sulfur and nitrogen, and enzymes that act on the precursors to liberate reactive flavors. When a cabbage, cauliflower, or Brussels sprout cell is damaged, the two stockpiles are mixed, and the enzymes start a chain of reactions that generate strong smelling, bitter, pungent, compounds, the kitchen smells of James Joyce interiors. These precursor and enzyme amounts differ for members of the cabbage family, even at different seasons of the year. Young, active leaves of Brussels sprouts are packed with glucosinolates; indeed, at 35, brussels sprouts have the highest level of relative sulfur pungency precursors in the cabbage family. Green cabbage has 26. Broccoli has 17. Red cabbage has 10. Cauliflower has 2.

In the case of Brussels sprouts, the precursors collect in the center of each sprout; by halving Brussels sprouts, and cooking them in salted water, the offending enzymes are released, making them milder, but probably not enough for small children to stop holding their noses; the greatest glucosinolate and enzyme battle lives in a Brussels sprout.

In the case of cabbage, aggressive and prolonged cell damage — as in boiling — gets those glucosinolates and enzymes busy. A fresh pot of bubble and squeak, the classic English boiled cabbage and potato casserole may remind people that the notorious World War I mustard gas was inspired by the cabbage family’s unique defenses.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Lifestyle

Your news, your way
Pictures of the Week
Comments Tracker
AP Entertainment Videos
Adam Levine Launches Clothing Line for Women Paul Wesley Sinks His Teeth Into Directing Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Josh Thompson Streams Album to Hook New Fans Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast ShowBiz Minute: Singer, Young, Poehler Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Nas Movie Opens Tribeca Film Festival Zooey Deschanel Adds Designing to Her Repertoire Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show 'Half of a Yellow Sun' Hits the Big Screen Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Swift's Bus Drives Into Country Hall of Fame ShowBiz Minute: Cyrus, Walker, Combs Pedro Pascal Plays 'Game of Thrones'' Red Viper Deeley Shows Acting Chops in Hulu's 'Deadbeat' Ora Strips Efron at MTV Awards ShowBiz Minute: MTV Awards, Lopez, Royals Stars Hit Red Carpet for MTV Movie Awards Conan Backs Colbert, Hosts MTV Movie Awards