Sometimes good things come together in the most fortuitous way. While browsing through the cooking section of a secondhand bookstore in Montevideo, I came across a 1960s copy of the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook. It's a paperback edition (in English) that served as a gift from New Holland farm equipment dealers to their clients. The back cover offers a message from the company. "To the modern farm wife and mother everywhere, this book is dedicated as a tribute to her contribution to the all-important task of feeding the men who feed the nation." Packed with good old-fashioned recipes, this treasure from rural America was an unexpected gem to find in Uruguay, of all places!
Back home on the finca a few days later, I was sitting on the terrace reading my new cookbook when our neighbour Felipe arrived at the gate, offering a gift of two giant heads of red cabbage. He owns a successful market garden which produces the most beautiful fruits and vegetables in Rama Caida. I knew exactly how to use his generous gift; Pickled Red Cabbage was featured in my vintage cookbook. The method involves shredding the cabbage and salting it in layers in a pail, then weighting the top of the pile with a plate and a brick. The cabbage has to sit for 30 hours, and is then packed into jars and pickled with a hot, spiced apple cider vinegar and sugar syrup. The magic of the process occurs when you pour the pickling syrup over the cabbage. There's an instant transformation from deep purple to bright pink, an event that thrilled me as much as any Pennsylvania Dutch farm kid. The end result is a preserved coleslaw with brilliant colour, zesty flavour and plenty of crunchy nutrition.
We teamed the cabbage with traditional chorizo sausages cooked on the grill. These are 100% pork sausages spiced with hot pepper and nutmeg. They are sold at the local mercadito on a string and cost 12 pesos for 6 fat links. I have tried cooking them on the stove, but found that the grease content is really too high for pan-frying. Chorizo are designed for the outdoor asado and when pierced during cooking, the fat drains off easily into the fire.
The meal needed a bold wine to compete with the strident flavours of pork and cabbage.
We selected Familia Ripa Malbec
, which is produced by bodega La Abeja, the oldest winery in San Rafael. The malbec has juicy plum and blackberry aromas, fleshy volume and rich fruit finish. The history of the local boutique bodega
is outlined on their website. Familia Ripa sells for 10.50 pesos at Vea supermarket.
For Christmas, I presented Felipe with a jar of my pickled red cabbage. It was a modest gift, just a small contribution to the all-important task of feeding the men who feed the nation.