This braised red cabbage recipe made with apples and spices is German slow food at it's finest. Make this simple, flavourful recipe to serve as a side with hearty meals or on it's own with German potato dumplings.
With Christmas coming closer and being far away from home, I get nostalgic thinking about classic German food. A bowl of braised red cabbage ticks all the boxes as it is a dish that I enjoy cooking and it reminds me of my early culinary years.
As with many German recipes, this is one that takes time hence falls in the slow food category. Thinly sliced red cabbage, marinated for 24 hours and then braised for 45 minutes, releases these beautiful aromas from the whole spices that always makes me miss home.
The real sweet and sour taste of this braised red cabbage can only be achieved cooking it slow so don't try taking short cuts.
The time and effort in making this dish is rewarded with a bowl of delicious red cabbage that can also be made days in advance. And like most braised dishes, the flavours develop even more with each passing day. Why not making a pie out of it, follow the red cabbage pie recipe to try it out.
BENEFITS OF MAKING RED CABBAGE?
You must be wondering why you should go through all the hassle of making red cabbage yourself, when you can buy it ready made in the grocery store? Well...
- Homemade tastes much better than store bought and contains more vitamins
- It's much less work than you think
- Prepare in large quantities, portion it and keep in the freezer
- You can also make this red cabbage in a slow cooker/crockpot
- And lastly and most importantly, everyone will ask you for this recipe (our recipe) because there is none like it!
Here are the key ingredients for red cabbage:
Red cabbage is mostly available all year round but is best during the colder months. Choose a firm cabbage with outer leaves attached and check if the stalk is moist (good) or dry (not good).
Onion brown onions are best but you can use red or white onions too.
Apples & Oranges gives the cabbage it's delicious sweet sour taste. To make this dish we will use red apples in season and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Vinegar & Red Wine is important for colour and taste. Red wine vinegar is best but you can use white or apple cider vinegar too. For a non alcoholic version, swap red wine with vegetable stock.
Butter is added to enhance the taste and give the red cabbage a shiny glaze. We usually use lard or duck fat but I wanted to keep it vegetarian, so used butter instead.
Spices are what makes this recipe so special. I used cinnamon, star anis, clove, bay leaf, all spice powder, peppercorn, salt and sugar.
Raspberry jam is a substitute for lingonberry jam since I couldn't find any where we live (IKEA is too far away) so I had to use another type of jam.
WHY MARINATE RED CABBAGE?
Marinating the red cabbage is time consuming but if you want a bright red colour and a creamy texture, it is worth the effort. The cabbage will soak up the marinade liquid overnight which helps breaking down the cabbage.
Doing so will reduce the cooking time hence avoids loosing colour which happens if you cook the cabbage for hours.
GERMAN STYLE RED CABBAGE
I learned to make this red cabbage recipe with apples during my apprenticeship in a traditional german restaurant 'zur sonne'. The only difference are the quantities, 20kg back then, 1kg now.
slicing the cabbage
Cutting cabbage the right way, is the key to making a good braised red cabbage - thinner the better. To cut it evenly thin, I prefer using a mandoline. Cutting red cabbage by hand is a task and a food processor unfortunately will not give you the same result.
Investing in a Japanese mandoline is a good idea! It's one of the many chef tools, slowly finding its way into households and for a good reason.
For this recipe I used a 1.2kg (2.65 lb) red cabbage head which yielded to 920g (2lb) shaved cabbage.
preparing the spices
To avoid having to pick the whole spices from the dish later, it is best to wrap them up in a cheese cloth (muslin cloth). After making a little spice parcel, pound them with something heavy like a pan or the back of a knife to release the flavours.
24 hours marination
In a large bowl combine the cabbage, red wine, red wine vinegar, orange juice, spice parcel, all spice powder, salt, sugar and massage well with your hands. Keep covered in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably 24 hours and mix the cabbage occasionally.
cooking the cabbage
The next day, slice the onions, peel and dice the apples. In a wide pot on medium heat, sear the onions and apples in butter for about 5 minutes. Now, add the cabbage with all the liquid and cover with a lid.
Bring the cabbage to a boil and cook covered on low heat for 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Check the doneness when the time is up. The cabbage can have a bit of bite but most importantly should be pleasant to eat. It should be almost creamy with a sweet and sour taste, with the spice flavours in the background.
Also, you don't want too much braising liquid left in your pot as these juices will run on the plate making a mess.
Finally, add the raspberry (or lingonberry) jam and adjust the seasoning with salt.
As a tip: If the cabbage is already cooked and you still have a lot of liquid left, just strain the braising liquid and reduce separately. Then add it back to the cabbage and mix well.
WHAT TO SERVE IT WITH
Here are some of the best recipes that go well with German red cabbage:
-with german bread dumplings and mushroom sauce
-along fork tender braised beef cheeks with shallot jus
-as a side for these slow cooked lamb shanks
-with roasted parsnips and a tangy gremolata sauce
-as a garnish for duck breast a l'orange
Besides these great dishes, red cabbage pairs well with wild game like venison and goose.
In case you haven't finalized your Christmas menu yet, this aromatic red cabbage side dish will be a great addition! If you enjoy cooking german food, try this delicious black forest cake or these nut corner biscuits. How about learning how to make sauerkraut?
Braised red cabbage can be stored for up to a week in the fridge. Re-heat the cabbage in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. Frozen, red cabbage can be kept for up to 3 months.
Yes, red cabbage is full of Vitamin C and contains calcium and iron too. 200 grams of raw red cabbage alone covers the daily requirements of 95-115 milligrams of Vitamin C. Red cabbage boosts your immune system
Yes absolutely. Just put all the ingredients in a pot and mix well. Cook for about 6 hours on low depending on how thin you cut the red cabbage
German braised Red Cabbage
- mandoline slicer
- large mixing bowl
- large pot with lid
- cheese cloth
- 1 medium red cabbage about 1.2kg (2.2lb)
- 1 brown onion peeled
- 2 red apples
- 1 large orange juiced
- 150 millilitre red wine vinegar
- 200 millilitre red wine
- 50 gram unsalted butter
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anis
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon all spice powder
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon raspberry jam or lingonberry jam
- salt to taste
red cabbage marination
- Cut the red cabbage head in 4 parts. Remove the stalk and slice the cabbage thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife.
- Make a parcel combining all the spices except the all spice powder in a cheese cloth. Tie the spice parcel and pound lightly with a heavy pot or using the back of a knife to release the flavours.
- In a large bowl combine the cabbage, the red wine, red wine vinegar, orange juice, spice parcel, all spice powder, salt and sugar and massage well with your hands. Keep covered in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably 24 hours. Mix the cabbage occasionally.
to cook the red cabbage
- The next day slice the onions, peel and dice the apples. In a wide pot on medium heat, sear the onions and apples in butter for about 5 minutes.
- Add the cabbage with all the liquid and cover with a lid. Bring the cabbage to a boil and cook on low heat covered for 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Check the doneness. The cabbage can have a bit of bite but should be pleasant to eat, almost creamy.
- Finally add the raspberry (or lingonberry) jam and adjust the seasoning with salt.
- Serve as a side to your favourite main or enjoy eating it on it's own.