Old Cuba Cabbage & Pork

Cabbage is one of those world-wide vegetables. It is a part of the ethnic cuisine of most countries. I typically think of Germany, when I research cabbage, but as I’ve written before, food historians link cabbage to the Celts. Because the Celts invaded Mediterranean lands from 600 B.C. through the time of Christ, it is likely that the cabbage originated in that area and was carried by the invaders. It eventually found its journey taking it through Europe and Asia.

How did cabbage find its way to Cuba? My focus for this post is Cuba and the recipe I am sharing is from an incredibly special cookbook. The Spanish and Portuguese introduced cabbage to Cuba as early as when the first explorer hit her shores … Columbus in 1492. The Spanish colonization began and the natives who had lived well eating corn and sweet potatoes were taught to grow new vegetables including cabbage. I’m fascinated by the foods of Cuba because of the vast mixture of ethnic cultures.

When I was planning my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project, I knew that I wanted to add the foods from other countries in my focus. I’ve traveled so much, met many wonderful cooks along the way, and I’ve eaten wonderful foods with ethic roots that stretch many different directions! I began looking for a few cookbooks that are all about those many ‘directions’ and luckily found A Taste of Old Cuba. The author, Maria Josefa Lluria de O'Higgins's, grew up in Cuba in the 1920s and 30s. The foods she writes about were her grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s recipes prepared by family members and a special household cook. Lluria left Cuba as a teenager and attended a boarding school in the United States. She then traveled the word and at the time of writing this book, lived with her family in Miami. Her memories and the recipes she shares are wonderful. I think it is great that someone with the surname Lluria from Cuba married an O’Higgins!

Without detailing politics in Cuba, the United States welcomed a mass of Cuban immigrants during my favorite vintage food period … the 1950s and 1960s. Cuban food became Miami food, so American tourists visiting the extremely popular travel destination (Miami) frequently returned to their homes with recipes and ingredients that would influence cuisine all over the nation. Then the ‘fusion’ began! Imagine combining foods from a German heritage, an Asian heritage or an Irish heritage … with Cuban foods! It worked!

Today, I’m sharing a simple cabbage recipe with readers. The tomato sauce is my own homemade and I’ll quickly tell you how I make it. I peel and chop enough red tomatoes to fill my crockpot. I add 3 stalks of celery, an onion and a green pepper … all chopped. Add 2 Tablespoons of mustard seed and 1 Tablespoon of celery seed. Let the tomatoes cook on high for about 4-5 hours. The tomatoes will cook down to a nice chunky sauce. When the sauce is done, I add a Tablespoon of sugar to cut the acidity. I freeze this sauce and it is good for a year.

I’m also sharing an easy pork recipe. I cook for one these days, so I really enjoy using a single pork loin boneless chop for a meal. I usually buy the whole boneless loin and cut them myself, so I cut them about 1 ½ inches thick. One of them is plenty to make this simple recipe (ingredients cut down) but please make a big batch for your family!

Fried Little Pork Strips

(Adapted from A Taste of Old Cuba)

2 pounds pork loin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Mexican tarragon
1 cup fresh orange juice
Canola oil for frying

If there is any fat on the loin, trim it off. Cut the loin in small strips of 1 inch chunks. Make a dry marinade by combining the garlic powder, salt, pepper and oregano. Rub it into the meat and let it sit for at least 2 hours before cooking. You can do this the night before cooking and refrigerate it for 24 hours.

Gently fry the meat in a little canola oil until it is browned. Add the orange juice and chopped Mexican tarragon to the pan. Cover it with foil and finish it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The meat will absorb the orange juice and be tender and flavorful.

Spanish Cabbage
(Adapted from A Taste of Old Cuba)

Maria Josefa Lluria de O'Higgins wrote that this recipe was a favorite of their housemaid and cook, Augustina. She said Augustina was the only help they could afford when they were poor. Augustina loved this recipe and said it was from colonial times. That makes me like it even more!

1 small cabbage
2 cups of fresh tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup dry plain breadcrumbs

Cut the cabbage into six wedges. Steam the cabbage wedges over boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes until the core is tender. Remove the cabbage to a baking dish. Sprinkle the cabbage with salt and pepper. Pour the fresh tomato sauce over the wedges. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover. Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the cabbage wedges. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the crumbs turn brown. Let the cabbage cool for ten minutes before plating it. Garnish it with parsley, cilantro or Mexican tarragon … or all three!

This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project. If you'd like to see more, click the menu button!

I'm also sharing with a couple blog parties, so check out the list on my sidebar.

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