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Jefferson-era Recipe: Cabbage a-la-Creme

Over on Facebook, we've been running a series of monthly notes in which we post a recipe from The Virginia House-wife, the recipe book published in 1824 by Thomas Jefferson's kinswoman, Mary Randolph. Now that we have a shiny new blog, we'll start posting them here instead and link to them from Facebook. These are recipes that Jefferson certainly would have known. We hope you enjoy them!

Leni Sorensen, culinary historian (and Monticello's African American Research Historian), makes the recipes and provides her notes and pictures.

January 2011

First, the recipe from Mary Randoph:

Take two good heads of cabbage, cut out the stalks, boil it tender with a little salt in the water, have ready one large spoonful of butter and a small one of flour rubbed into it, half a pint of milk, with pepper and salt, make it hot, put the cabbage in after pressing out the water, and stew it till quite tender.  (Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-Wife, 1824, pg. 105)

And Leni's notes:

NOTE: The milk she calls for would have been much more like our half and half.  Randolph’s book has four recipes for cabbage.  It was a vegetable that could be harvested and stored for winter use and from the records of the Jefferson family food purchases must have been a favorite at the table at Monticello.

I have chosen the simplest cabbage dish but for a really fancy presentation MR tells how to prepare a Cabbage Pudding which is a whole cabbage stuffed with seasoned chopped meat and served in beautiful slices!  It was called a pudding because the whole stuffed cabbage was tied tightly into a cloth, lowered into simmering water and cooked till done.  When drained and plattered it kept its shape. 

Cabbage in the kitchen


Charles Morrill's picture
Hmmm....the cabbage pudding looks really interesting. Is The Virginia Housewife still available anywhere? I'd like to try the cabbage pudding.
Charles Morrill
Leni the Cook's picture
Yes, The Virginia House-wife is available. I recommend the 1984 edition by the University of South Carolina Press with historical notes and commentaries by the late culinary historian Karen Hess. Enjoy!
Leni the Cook
aberkes's picture
<i>The Virginia House-wife</i> is also available online in many different places, including <a href="">Hathi Trust (1828 edition)</a>; the <a href="">Internet Archive (1836 edition)</a>; Michigan State's <a href="">"Feeding America"</a> digital project and <a href="">Google Books</a>, which both have the 1838 edition; and <a href="">Project Gutenberg (1860 edition)</a>.
Anna Berkes
MirandaQ's picture
This is really interesting. Glad that you have posted it online and had shared it with us. This <a title="Black Eyed Peas recipe | Hoppin John is New Year’s good luck food" href="">recipe</a> is a must try from the looks of it especially that I am a cabbage lover. Well, since mentioned, I'd like to try that cabbage pudding too.
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