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Forced Cabbage

Learn about this recipe from our historic foodways staff, then try it at home

This is one of several stuffed cabbage recipes that uses the whole head of cabbage instead of individually stuffed leaves. Cabbages were quite survivable out of the ground, so a family might have used this recipe long after the cabbage was harvested. This recipe’s leftovers make a great hash for breakfast!

18th Century

BLANCH a Cabbage in Water, drain it, and open it carefully that the Leaves be not broken, but hang on to another; spread them, and in the Middle put a Farce made of Veal, blanch’d Bacon, the Flesh of Fowls, Fat of Ham, hash’d Mushrooms, and Truffles, Chives, Parsley, and a Clove of Garlick; season it with Spices and Wrap word in Pot-herbs, grated Bread, two whole Eggs, and the Yolks of two more; shread all very small and pound them in a Mortar. Fill the Cabbage with this farce, close up the Leaves, and tie it round with Packthread. Then put into a Stewpan some Slices of Veal well beaten, with half a Spoonful of Flower, and then put in your Cabbage, and let them take Colour together. When it is brown, put in some Broth, and season them with fine Herbs and Slices of Onions, and pour over it a Ragoo of Mushrooms, or any other of the like sort; then serve it up. You may also farce a Cabbage Meagre with the Flesh of Fish and other Garnishings, as you farce a Carp, Pike, or other Fish.

— “Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery, p. 121.

21st Century


For the stuffing

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2—4 oz. veal, cooked and chopped
  • 2-3 oz. of lightly cooked bacon or smoked ham, chopped
  • 2-3 oz. mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 oz. cooked chicken, turkey, or duck, chopped (or you may use more of one of these meats in larger amounts and leave out the others)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tsp. each of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and chives
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs
  • 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks whipped together (you may leave out the two additional yolks if you choose)
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

For the broth

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 oz. sliced veal, pounded
  • 3 Tbsp of flour
  • A bunch of fresh herbs, tied together
  • 2 quarts of vegetable or beef broth to cover cabbage in pan


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, combine all the ingredients for stuffing. The consistency should be like an uncooked meatloaf.
  3. When the water has boiled, insert a large meat folk all the way into the core end of cabbage.
  4. Submerge the cabbage in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, rotating it from side to side, until the outer leaves are softened. Carefully peel away the outer leaf but don’t break it. Repeat for the next layer of leaf and so on until several layers are pulled back but still attached.
  5. Allow the cabbage to cool and drain for several minutes. Then reach into the cabbage and remove the core, creating a pocket for the stuffing.
  6. Fill the cabbage with the stuffing and push the outer leaves back into shape to encase the filling.
  7. Wrap the cabbage in cheesecloth and set aside.
  8. Make the broth by putting the veal slices into a clean pot and allow it to brown a few minutes. Add the flour to coat the meat. When the flour has been absorbed and is brown, add the broth and sliced onions. When the broth has attained a low boil, add the herb bundle and cabbage. (Or you may use pre-prepared broth to cook the cabbage.)
  9. Cook the cabbage for about 35-40 minutes or until tender.
  10. Drain and place on serving platter. Slice into wedges.

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