For me autumn is red cabbage season. Well, usually also winter is red cabbage season but I am more than happy to start this as soon as possible. Somehow red cabbage makes me happy: it’s beautyful colour brightens up an otherwise mostly dull season. I want to share my favorite recipe with you, that has been time tested and is loved by friends and family.
Try to estimate how much raw cabbage will fit into the biggest cooking pot you have at home. Don’t forget that the cabbage needs much more space after it has been sliced, so don’t be overzealous. You want to make the biggest batch possible, as leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, only intensifying the flavours. It is also possible to freeze leftovers, leaving you with an awesome side dish just waiting for you anytime you may need it.
This is an awesome side dish to go with seasonal main actors like duck, goose and game. But I also love it in combination with smoked fish or even the humble pork roast. Red cabbage is much more versatile than you might expect.
You will need:
- 2 heads of red cabbage – feel free to scale up or down depending on the biggest cooking pot.
- 4 red onions
- 2 apples
- 1 glass of cranberry jam
- 2 packs of preboiled chestnuts (500g)
When shopping for ingredients, look for good quality products. I once made the mistake to buy a cheap, low quality cranberry jam, which mostly consisted of water, pectin and sugar and didn’t have much flavour. The red cabbage will soak up all the good flavours of the ingredients you use for cooking, so don’t skimp on them.
- Peel and slice the onions. You don’t have to make pretty slices, they all get cooked down anyways.
- Slowly sautee the onions in you favorite cooking fat. If possible use lard or goose/duck fat for maximum bang!
- Meanwhile quarter and slice the cabbage into fine strips. Again, you don’t have to be obsessed with “as thin as possible” slices, just go with your personal preferance. If you aren’t proficient with the knife, consider to use a mandoline, but please watch your fingers!
- When the onions turn translucent, add the sliced cabbage step by step as you progress with slicing them. Add some salt as it helps wilting down the cabbage, making stiring the pot much easier.
- Add spices that scream “Christmas” for you. I like pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and a little dried ginger. Be generous with the spices, but don’t overdo it, you can always add more later. Some of those spices can leave a bitter aftertaste if you use too much. Also add the cranberry jam and some good vinegar like red wine vinegar.
- Put the lid on the pot and leave to cook for at least 30 minutes over low to moderate heat. Stir occasionally. If you think that there is too much liquid, take the lid off and let it cook down.
- Cut your apples into pieces. Again, go by personal preferance. Add the apples to the red cabbage and let it cook until the apples are tender but still have some consistency.
- Taste and season your red cabbage again. In my experience it is almost impossible to get it right in the first try.
- Add the precooked chestnuts just before serving, only to warm them. They are quite fragile, so don’t cook them too long! Enjoy 🙂
Sometimes cabbage contains a lot of water and turns everything into a soup. It may help to let it cook longer with the lid off, but you could also carefully drain away some of the excess liquid and thicken the remaining liquid with potato starch.
If the red cabbage somehow tastes boring, you probably used too little salt. Cabbage loves salt! You also may want more sweetness AND sourness, cabbage also loves those 😉 .
You can vary this recipe in almost every imaginable way. You can use different fruits like pears, dark berries, figs or grapes. Dried fruits are a different way to add some sweetness. Try different types of jam! You can add orange juice/red wine/port wine/sherry/orange liqueur to your onions before adding the cabbage. For a more robust flavour add finely sliced bacon to the onions. Experiment with different spices like star anise, vanilla and juniper.
If you want to make a low calorie version, you can omit the chestnuts and replace the cranberry jam with fresh cranberries and use sweetener for the much needed sweetness.
Let me know if you liked my favorite red cabbage variation in the comment section below. Or even better, tell me your favorite way to prepare this delicious vegetable! And don’t forget to have fun in the kitchen 😀 !