col cannon(cál ceannann)


Meaning "white-headed cabbage," col cannon is a traditional Irish culinary preparation of mashed potatoes, finely sliced kale and/or cabbage, cream or milk, and butter.  ("Bubble and squeak" is the more texture-referencing name of the English variant of col cannon.)  Col cannon is often seasoned with leeks, onions, chives, parsley, scallions, and salt and pepper.  Regional additions may include ham or bacon.  However, it is often served with a boiled or stewed meat.  A hearty dish, col cannon is a year-round staple, but is more often prepared as winter approaches, since kale is a cold weather crop. 

Col cannon figures in Irish Halloween festivities, at which time it is served with small buttons, rings, coins, and thimbles hidden in the fluffy green and white dish. Each item signifies a particular future for whomever finds a charm in their serving: buttons for bachelors, thimbles for spinsters, coins for wealth, and rings for marriage.  Another tradition has it that a woman, hopeful of marriage, might hang a small sack of col cannon at the front door of her home and her future husband would be the first man to enter.

Col cannon’s enduring appeal is such that it is celebrated in a traditional Irish song:

“The Skillet Pot”

Did you ever eat col cannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made col cannon in the little skillet pot.

Countries: Ireland

A sample recipe: Col cannon


8 large russet potatoes
1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 lb. of cleaned Kale leaves, sliced thinly

1 cup cream
1 stick of butter cut into three equal pieces

1 leek, pale green to white section only, minced
5 scallions (green onions), chopped

8 slices of bacon, or comparable amount of pork belly or ham, crumbled or fine cubed and browned
Salt and pepper
Fresh Parsley or chives, minced for garnish



1. Peel and boil potatoes.

2. Wash, clean, and slice the cabbage, kale, leeks, scallions, and parsley.

3. Cube and brown the meat.

4. Steam the cabbage and kale until wilted (about 10 minutes.)  – Do not boil so as not to lose flavor and nutrients and keep the greens from taking on too much moisture.

5. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, sauté the leeks until translucent in one knob of the butter (about 5 minutes.)  Add the greens, cover with a lid, and turn the heat to low.

6. Drain potatoes and allow them to dry in the pot.  Add the cream and another knob of butter and turn on heat to low.  When the butter has melted, the potatoes will have absorbed some of the cream and will be easy to mash.  Use a potato masher and not a ricer or food processor or mixer, to avoid making the potato mixture pasty.

7. After mashing the potatoes, add and lightly fold in the greens, cubed and browned meat, and chopped scallions.  Season the col cannon with salt and pepper, place in a serving dish, and sprinkle with parsley.  Atop the mound of col cannon, make a well into which to place the last knob of butter and let it melt into a golden pool.