Start to Finish: 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Easy
Germany's soil pH has a kaleidoscopic effect on red cabbage. In the acidic soils of the south, a bluish hue pervades, earning it the name blaukraut, or blue cabbage. In the alkaline soils of central and northern Germany, where you find rotkohl and rotkraut -- or red cabbage -- a purplish, radicchiolike color dominates the cabbage rows. Despite its naming conventions, braised red cabbage is a consistent preparation throughout Germany: an exercise in flavor balancing in which vinegar and apples negate the cabbage's natural bitterness and garlic and onions play pungent, supporting roles.
- 1 red cabbage, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of chili flakes
- 3 cloves
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium tart apples, cored and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/2 cup water
- Pinch of salt
Shred the cabbage and preserve its color at the same time. Quarter the cabbage and cut out each piece of core. Set the quarters cut-side down and slice them crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Toss the shredded cabbage with cider vinegar and set it aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, chili flakes, cloves and onions and cook until the onions soften, about 8 minutes.
Add the shredded cabbage, apples, caraway seeds and water. Add a pinch of salt and toss the cabbage and apples using tongs. Cover the pot.
Cook the cabbage until tender but toothsome, about 45 minutes. Toss the cabbage every 15 minutes.
Season the cabbage to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This is a dish that tastes better the second day. Cabbage and garlic are packed with umami, a taste sensation that develops with a little time. The result is a floral, heady aroma and savory-sweet flavor best described as unctuous.
Add a Southern quality to German cabbage by substituting bacon fat for vegetable oil. Chop 6 slices of thick-cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook them over low heat until chewy. Set aside the bacon and cook the cabbage in the rendered fat, with additions as described above. Stir the reserved bacon into the cabbage in the last few minutes of cooking.