A well-prepared red cabbage is an essential part of winter season – at least for me it is!
Red cabbage (or “red cabbage with apples”) is available all year round in the frozen goods’ department of your trusted food store – maybe if Xmas is ante portas the supplies decrease rapidly. The frozen packets are good for 2-4 servings – this is the simple way to stock up for any Xmas- or pre-Xmas or after-Xmas dinner.
On the other hand there is the true home-made red cabbage revealing your personal touch in spices & your uniqueness. It’s obvious that we’ll reach out for this goal – especially when learning that the red cabbage production is far easier than you think for a start & that you don’t need producing red cabbage in your kitchen 4-5 times during winter, but a single red cabbage campaign will deliver enough stuff for several dinners.
I’ve assembled all ingredients (at least for doing it my way!) for a home-made red cabbage session:
- There is a wonderful big red cabbage – at the latest now you’ll realize that we’re not talking about producing only 2-3 servings!
- Next big thing are the apples – I always use Boskop apples.
- Then there are these little white bowls containing:
- balsamic vinegar
- lemon juice
- powdered cilantro & 5-spices-mix.
These are the flavoring agents I use – feel free to add similar spices (later more).
- Furthermore there are:
- bay leaves
- juniper berries
…and finally: salt & pepper.
Now we are ready to start the session!
At first we’re dealing with the red cabbage; the head of cabbage is usually about 2.000 – 2.500 gr. We cut it into halves after having removed all dirty & shrivelled leaves (as a rule: only the outmost layer). The we cut the halves once again into halves – getting now quarters.
The quarters are ready for your mandolin slicer (or other kitchen equipment being able to process a head of cabbage into a very fine mess):
- Don’t be afraid of the huge amount of red cabbage!
(There is only very few waste like the stump!)
- Don’t be afraid of the color seeming to transform your hands & fingers reddish – it won’t last: hand-washing will clear everything!
Now let’s prepare the apples. It is easier to divide the processed apples at once because you’ll need about 50% rather soon & the remaining 50% only later. It doesn’t matter if the apples start to oxygenize (i. e. get brown) a little.
For the basic loading of red cabbage you’ll need a rather big pot (about 6 l capacity in my case). Don’t worry if the cabbage load is almost over the edge of the pot – it’ll reduce during cooking.
We’ll cook the red cabbage in 2 worksteps:
- 1st step: Only boiling in very salty water to get rid of all the foam.
- 2nd step: Fine-tuning with apples & spices – boiling to get it done.
The 1st step requires your full attention because the boiling water will start the cabbage to balloon in order to leave the pot – what will be a real mess! (B. t. w.: You don’t think how often you can create a real mess with lots of cleaning work to do if you leave your kitchen alone at the wrong moment!)
So be careful & watch the cabbage in the boiling water; take a spatula or a big spoon to press the cabbage back into the boiling water.
The cabbage – with lots of salt – needs boiling only for 1-2 min; then the pot is emptied into a big colander waiting in your sink. You’ll see that the red cabbage has transformed into blue cabbage; all the water is deep blue. After brushing the cabbage with cold water & cleaning the pot of any foam residues fill about 1 cm fresh water in the pot before transferring the cabbage mess back. Yes – it looks somewhat disastrous – however, not for long: this is just the end of the 1st workstep.
(Well – encourage yourself: the most busy & strenuous part is done now!)
Start boiling again – you’ll see that the amount of cabbage is smaller now & more appropriate for the pot size. Add salt & pepper – careful now: this will end in the final dish.
- Add balsamic vinegar & lemon juice (or lime juice); after stirring the cabbage it’s very red again.
- Add honey (or sugar or sugar beet syrup or maple syrup or whatever you like) to smoothen the acidity.
- Add some cilantro & stir again.
- Add some bay leaves: take only very big & strong bay leaves (no crumbly ones!) & count them – you’ll have to fish them out later… and then comes the “egg”!
Take a stainless steel tea egg, unscrew it, fill it with cloves, allspice & juniper berries, screw it very carefully & make sure it’s definitely closed before you drop it in the cabbage mess.
Red alert: The absolute disaster is an self-unscrewing tea egg spreading all the little spices in the red cabbage – you’ll never succeed in controlling the damage done! (You’ll have only 2 alternatives: dump it & restart or try to convince your guests that it is the most natural pleasure if they happen to bite a bit of very intensive spice!)
Now mix the 1st 50% of apple bits into the red cabbage. Cover the pot with a fitting lid & let it simmer for about 30 min.
Afterwards the apples have vanished into a very smoothy liquid surrounding the red cabbage shreds. You can fish for the bay leaves & the tea egg now – then taste it. As a rule you’ll have to add some salt & pepper, maybe also some more honey or lemon juice. The red cabbage should be well-done now.
Add the 5-spices-mix & maybe some more cilantro – it depends on your liking!
B. t. w.: Besides cilantro & 5-spice-mix you can add similar spices like cinnamon or nutmeg – both winter-Xmas-typical spices combining very well with red cabbage.
Important: you should slowly come to an end with the spicing business!
Now add the 2nd half of apple bits, stir it & cover the pot again. Let it simmer for another 10 min. While the 1st load of apples is meant to add smoothness, the 2nd load shall stay in bits.
Now we are done!
Let the red cabbage cool & freeze it (I recommend: 2 servings per container (about 400 ml per container – well: may end up as 3 servings as well if you prefer!)). When ready for use just defrost & heat it in a microwave, taste it (as a rule: always some more salt & pepper is fine!) & serve it.
This time I processed a red cabbage of 2.400 gr together with 2.000 gr boskop apples: I got 9 double servings (= 18 single servings) – well the servings #1 and #2 were polished off the same evening; the next 4 servings were killed during a dinner with friends next weekend. …and then there comes Xmas: red cabbage is an inherent part of our Xmas dinner. So: no worries about the consumption!
This red cabbage recipe evolved during my “please-(almost)-no-fat-phase”; therefore I don’t use any oils or butter in it. If you like an additional butter flavor feel free to add butter, but have in mind that the melted apples & the honey take care of smoothness.
Start always big with red cabbage – rather than small! The resources & time you need will be almost the same & you don’t need worrying what to do with the “big” rest of the “raw” cabbage if you’re not a fan of uncooked vegetarian food. My experience: you won’t get a red cabbage just the size of a big apple – let’s say about 250 gr – which is fine for a 2-people-dinner. …and red cabbage gets even better when once reheated after been frozen!
Apples? You should work rather hearty, but mellow apples – not too sweet ones!
I tested oranges once, but I didn’t like it – in the end it was a bit too sour.
The Businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
Once again the idea of getting into a kitchen session to produce lots of food for future use. I like the underlying concept of dirtying your hand once & benefit from the results several times, but I think I’ll have to get my freezer archive a little bit more organized to avoid forgetting prepared food.