Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This Fried Cabbage Is the Best Way to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

by 
Jennifer Billock
March 7, 2022

There’s a longstanding piece of historical knowledge in my family: When my relatives came over from Ireland in the 1800s, they had a couple options. If they were well-behaved, they could stay in the United States. If they weren’t, they’d either be shipped back to Ireland, or they’d join the clergy. And that’s why my two great aunts were nuns.

Now, I don’t know for sure if that story is fully true — just like I’ll never know which relative actually stole a milk truck on the streets of Ireland as a child — but both anecdotes are a great example of a fine part of my Irish heritage, the gift of gab. We love to talk, we love to tell stories, and we love to pass those stories down to the next generation.

And that oral tradition includes recipes. I have a box full of my grandmother’s recipes, and my mom made us an entire cookbook of our family recipes. But one I know by heart and will never need an actual recipe for is our St. Patrick’s Day dinner staple, fried cabbage.

We’ve had a family dinner for St. Patrick’s Day for as long as I can remember, and fried cabbage has always been a part of it — alongside corned beef and cabbage, green bean casserole, and all the other dishes that turn an Irish holiday into a fully Irish-American celebration. The fried cabbage is one of the simplest dishes of the meal, with nothing more than cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper, but it’s my favorite.

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The simplicity is reflective of my family’s Irish past, as well. They lived a minimalist life. Some were Irish Travellers; others dwelled in a small cottage. Later in the timeline, my great uncle owned Costello’s Pub in Limerick and spent most of his time inside the bar. The business is still there, a bright yellow building that has now been passed to people outside the family.

 All the relatives who came to the United States, whether they stopped in Boston (where a branch of my family still lives) or kept going inland to Chicago, held fast to their Irish heritage, and they passed that love of the old country down to all of us. For us, St. Patrick’s Day is more than drinking green beer, watching them dye the Chicago River, or partying at bars. We prefer to get together, listen to music, eat a hearty meal, and swap stories of family fun and past trips to Ireland.

Our celebrations are led by the heart – the same heart that goes into this fried cabbage and all the food we eat on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you ask me, the togetherness and connection we feel to our long-gone family members on this day makes the food taste even better. So when you make this fried cabbage, remember to infuse it with some love of your own and memories of your family.

St. Patrick's Day Fried Cabbage

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Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

Author's note: A wooden spoon is highly recommended for this. It simply doesn't taste quite as good with any other tool.

1 head green cabbage, cored and cut into strips

1 stick salted butter (plus more as needed)

Salt and pepper to taste

 | 
 | 
Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

Author's note: A wooden spoon is highly recommended for this. It simply doesn't taste quite as good with any other tool.

1 head green cabbage, cored and cut into strips

1 stick salted butter (plus more as needed)

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients

Author's note: A wooden spoon is highly recommended for this. It simply doesn't taste quite as good with any other tool.

1 head green cabbage, cored and cut into strips

1 stick salted butter (plus more as needed)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet.

2. Add about a quarter of the cabbage to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon until it's reduced. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Repeat three more times, adding an additional third of the cabbage, seasoning with salt and pepper and adding more butter as needed. This will result in the cabbage having three levels of doneness within the same dish.

4. When all the cabbage is cooked to tender, serve immediately.

About the Author

Jennifer Billock

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