Okay, people. It’s October, the weather is getting chilly here in Kansas, we live in an area with a heavy German influence, and I have been craving German red cabbage. The stars therefore aligned for today’s recipe.
Years ago, when we lived in the Austin, TX area, we took Steve’s parents to a German restaurant in New Braunfels when they visited us from Kansas. The restaurant is now closed, and truth be told, the food there was not too spectacular. But their German red cabbage was amazing! I have eaten German red cabbage only a couple of times since and could not help but compare them to that one in New Braunfels. The ones after definitely fell short.
Growing up in Brazil, I attended an international school that included some German students. Quite a while ago, I decided to ask my schoolmate and friend Harald, who lives in Munich, for an authentic recipe for German red cabbage. Harald eventually sent me his wife’s recipe, and I finally got around to making it some weeks back. I posted that dinner on social media, and my friend Mary asked me to please share the recipe on Mutt & Chops. Apparently, she just loves this dish.
Harald’s wife must be a scratch cook with a lot of experience because the recipe he sent me did not include measurements for everything. But that’s okay, because what makes this recipe authentic are the list of ingredients themselves. So, I played with it a couple or three times and am happiest with the recipe I share today.
Thank you, Harald, and here you go Mary!
Making German Red cabbage
The first time I made the recipe, I used Granny Smith apples. When I tasted it before serving, I did not think the cabbage was sweet enough, so I added more sugar. The next time, I used Fuji apples, which are sweeter than Granny Smiths. I feel the sweeter apple gave the final dish a more natural sweet finish as opposed to adding more sugar.
I chose to shred the cabbage instead of slicing it because this dish needs to stew a long time. Basically, until the cabbage is VERY tender, and the apple is virtually dissolved. The cooking time is shorter if the cabbage is shredded instead of sliced.
I chose white pepper because I like pepper in my food, but white pepper is less intrusive than black pepper. I believe it blends in better with the other ingredients.
For a vegan version, substitute vegetable oil for the butter.
And a special ingredient, which I think made Harald’s wife’s recipe stand out, is the use of a bay or laurel leaf. It’s amazing how much one little leaf can change a dish, adding a flavor element that elevates the final product immensely.
Start by melting the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium low heat.
Then add the onion and sauté it just until aromatic. I used a whole onion, which came out to about 2 1/2 cups chopped. That sounds like a lot, but I think the onion is an important player in balancing the sweet and sour with a touch of savory.
Add the shredded cabbage and the apples.
Stir to mix everything well.
Then stir in the sugar, vinegar, ground cloves, white pepper, and sprinkle some salt. Stir everything well to distribute the flavors.
Add about 3 tablespoons of water to help with the stewing process.
Cover and stew for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours over medium low heat.
Open and stir every fifteen minutes or so. This will insure that everything cooks evenly and helps break down the apple pieces as they become tender.
Cook until it looks like this. You can see how much it reduced. At this point it is very tender and has a beautiful purple juice at the bottom, keeping everything nice and moist. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed to taste.
It smells SO wonderful! Cooked cabbage often releases a less than pleasant aroma. But the ingredients for German red cabbage combine to create a mouthwatering scent sensation.
Serve right away with your favorite protein. I made some pork schnitzel to go with my German red cabbage. But a nice sausage with some boiled potatoes would go well too.
Tender, sweet, a hint of acid, and savory. Harald and his wife shared a wonderful recipe with me, and I am SO appreciative!
German red cabbage, to me, is one of those dishes where the ingredients, once they are combined, are transformed into something bigger than the individual parts. I really don’t think this dish is prepared and enjoyed enough. I plan to make it more often, that’s for sure!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium head red cabbage, shredded (8 to 10 cups)
- 2 large Fuji apples, chopped
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 2½ cups)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 3 tablespoons water
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium low heat.
- Add the onion and sauté it just until aromatic.
- Add the shredded cabbage and the apples.
- Stir in the sugar, vinegar, ground cloves, white pepper, and sprinkle some salt. Stir everything well to distribute the flavors.
- Add about 3 tablespoons of water to help with the stewing process.
- Cover and stew for about 1 to 1½ hours over medium low heat, stirring every 15 minutes. Cook until the cabbage is very tender, and the apple is virtually dissolved.
- Remove from heat and serve hot.