Canning raw cabbage allows you to preserve cabbage harvested from your garden or bought in bulk at the farmer’s market so you can enjoy it all year long. Canned cabbage retains its crunchiness and many of its nutrients. With some simple equipment and a bit of time, canning cabbage at home is easy, safe, and rewarding.
Benefits of Canning Cabbage
There are several advantages to canning your own cabbage rather than buying canned cabbage at the store:
- Cost savings – Canning your own cabbage is cheaper than buying pre-canned options.
- Control over ingredients – You can control precisely what goes into your canned cabbage.
- Cabbage in its raw form – Canning preserves the crunchiness and many nutrients of raw cabbage.
- Customize flavors – Add your own choice of seasonings and spices.
- Shelf life – Properly canned cabbage lasts 12 months or more.
- Natural preservative – Canning cabbage requires no artificial preservatives.
- Accessibility – Enjoy cabbage year-round regardless of season.
- Homegrown cabbage – Preserve your own garden cabbage harvest.
- Preparedness – Canned cabbage can be part of your emergency food supply.
With so many advantages, it’s easy to see why learning how to can cabbage is a handy homesteading skill.
Selecting Cabbage for Canning
Choosing fresh, high-quality cabbage is key when cabbage canning. Look for cabbage heads that are:
- Firm and dense
- Heavy for their size
- Free of bruises, holes, or blemishes
- Unwilted leaves
- Heads that feel tight when squeezed
For best results, can your cabbage soon after harvesting or purchasing. Cabbage starts losing both nutrients and flavor quality immediately after being picked.
You can use green, red, or savoy cabbage varieties for canning. Their density makes them suitable for preservation. More delicate types like napa cabbage are not recommended.
Cabbage Nutrition Facts
Canning cabbage allows you to preserve many of its beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Some key nutritional components include:
|Immune supporting, antioxidant
|Bone and heart health
|Digestive health, gut microbiome support
|Blood pressure and muscle support
Canning preserves many of these nutrients, while freezing may degrade nutrients like vitamin C over time.
Equipment Needed for Canning Cabbage
Canning cabbage requires some specialized canning equipment for a safe, shelf-stable final product. Equipment needed includes:
- Canning jars – Mason jars designed for home canning, in pint or quart sizes. The jars need to be completely sterilized before use.
- Canning lids and bands – Specifically designed for sealing canning jars. Always use new lids each time you can.
- A large pot with lid – For hot packing cabbage before transferring it into jars.
- Canning rack – A rack that fits inside the canning pot to elevate jars off the bottom.
- Jar lifter – Helpful tool for safely lifting hot jars in and out of the canner.
- Canning funnel – For cleanly guiding food into the canning jars.
- Headspace measuring tool – Used to leave the proper amount of headspace in filled jars.
- Bubble releaser – Helpful for releasing trapped air bubbles from filled jars.
- Clean towels – For cooling jar rims before sealing and wiping spills.
A pressure canner is also essential for canning low-acid foods like cabbage safely. Do not attempt to can cabbage using a water bath method.
Pressure Canning vs. Water Bath Canning
Cabbage must be processed using a pressure canner and not a water bath method. This is because cabbage is a low-acid food with a pH higher than 4.6. The higher pressure and temperature reached in a pressure canner is required to kill bacteria and prevent botulism poisoning. Key differences include:
|Water Bath Canning
Some key takeaways are that a pressure canner uses steam to reach higher temperatures above the boiling point of water, making it a must for low-acid foods prone to botulism like cabbage, green beans, meat, and fish. Water bath canning does not get hot enough to prevent botulism in these foods.
Follow these steps for safely canning crisp, flavorful cabbage at home.
Step 1 – Select cabbage and wash jars
Select fresh, firm cabbage heads without brown spots or blemishes. Remove any wilted outer leaves. Thoroughly wash and rinse pint or quart canning jars. Check for any nicks or cracks; imperfect jars should be discarded and not reused.
Step 2 – Sterilize jars and prepare lids
Sterilize your jars in a large stockpot of simmering water for 10 minutes. This kills any bacteria or mold present. Leave jars in the hot water until ready to fill. Sterilize the jar lids and bands by placing in a small saucepan of simmering water for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside until needed.
Step 3 – Cut and blanch cabbage
Remove any wilted outer leaves from the cabbage heads, then rinse under cold running water. Cut heads into quarters, and remove the tough inner core from each quarter. Thinly slice the trimmed cabbage into strips about 1/4 inch thick.
In a large pot, bring 2-3 gallons of water to boiling over high heat. Add your sliced cabbage and blanch for 1 minute. This briefly cooks the cabbage while retaining crunchiness. Drain in a colander and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process.
Step 4 – Pack cabbage into jars
Pack tightly into your sterilized pint or quart jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. You can optionally add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each jar, but salt is not required for preservation. Wipe any cabbage bits from the rim with a clean towel to ensure a good jar seal.
Step 5 – Remove air bubbles
Before putting on lids, use a bubble releaser or other non-metallic utensil to release any trapped air bubbles in the packed jars. Add more cabbage to return to the proper 1 inch headspace, if needed.
Step 6 – Apply lids and bands
Place the previously warmed lids on each jar with the sealing compound facing down to make full contact with the rim. Twist on a metal screwbanded ring over each lid.
Step 7 – Process jars in a pressure canner
Place jars on the canner rack, allowing 2-3 inches of space between jars. Add 2-3 inches of hot water to the canner base. Heat on high heat until a full column of steam appears, then close the vent valve. Once pressurized to 10-11 PSI, process pint jars for 40 minutes, quart jars for 45 minutes.
When complete, allow pressure to fully drop before opening vent. Carefully remove hot jars from canner and let cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
Step 8 – Test seals and store
After cooling completely, test jar seals by pressing down on the center lid. It should not pop up and down when pressed. Also listen for a pinging sound when tapped. If the seal fails this test, refrigerate and consume soon rather than storing at room temperature.
Properly sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Over time, the cabbage may darken but will remain safe to eat if seals are intact.
Tips for Delicious Canned Cabbage
- Use cabbage within a day of purchasing for best flavor and crunch.
- Cut cabbage heads into thin strips or shred for easier packing into jars.
- Refrigerate jars for 2-3 weeks to allow flavors to meld before consuming.
- Add pickling spices, bay leaves, black peppercorns, or red pepper flakes for flavor.
- For sauerkraut, pack shredded cabbage tightly with salt before canning.
- Mix shredded red and green cabbage together for a colorful medley.
- Top canned cabbage with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper for an instant salad.
- Add cooked bacon, nuts, raisins or grated cheese for hearty dishes.
Troubleshooting Canning Issues
If you run into problems with your canned cabbage, here are some common troubleshooting issues:
|Jars did not seal
|Lid not sealed properly
|Reprocess within 24 hours or refrigerate
|Food discolored or mushy
|Processing time too short
|Discard food; re-read instructions
|Liquid lost during processing
|Too much headspace
|Pack tighter before processing
|Food darkened at top
|Lids put on too loosely
|Ensure proper seal before processing
|Sudden temperature change
|Cool jars gradually after processing
Always thoroughly review canning instructions to avoid common mistakes. Only eat fully sealed canned cabbage within 1 year and discard if any sign of spoilage.
Enjoy Your Canned Cabbage All Year Long
Now that you know the detailed steps for how to can cabbage at home, you can reap the rewards all season long. From added nutrition to custom flavors to long-term savings, canned cabbage is a smart way to preserve the harvest. Always be sure to follow safe canning practices carefully. Then crack open a jar of your home-preserved cabbage and enjoy!