Learn how to make this simple braised cabbage recipe that is just the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner or Sunday Roasts. With the delicious flavors of apples, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, it is so easy to make and has no wine in it so you can serve the kids without any worries. It does have an extra special ingredient that adds so much flavor and fruity sweetness!!!
Do you love your red cabbage to be sweet and sticky? I do and I think it is perfect for serving with roast meats. It works fabulously with turkey, chicken and duck. but is also fabulous with a roast pork joint.
The sticky sweet cabbage, is lightly spiced with flavors that just shout Christmas: Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise. They add a homely warmth to the dish. Just the smell of this cooking makes me think about Christmas – the open fires, the snow falling and carols by candle light ……yes even now I live down under where Christmas means high temperatures and spending the day by the pool, for me the smell of Christmas takes me back to wintery nights!
Aren’t the spices just beautiful….I feel like this could be a poster sold in Ikea.
If braised red cabbage is going to be on your Holiday table then I have some top tips for you to make sure it is the best it can be!
How to cut red cabbage.
Okay so I know you are thinking, I can skip this bit! I know how to use a knife. BUT I have a method I promise.
To make sure you get all the delicious cabbage and no hard crunchy lumps follow this step by step.
- Quarter the cabbage by cutting it in half and then in half again.
- Cut the very bottom off the cabbage then cut the core from the middle of each quarter, ensuring that you cut all of the core and thick cabbage away.
- Turn the cabbage around and remove the thick outer leaves.
- When you shred the cabbage cut it into thick shreds rather than very thin ones, this gives the dish some bulk, makes it much easier to cut and stops your finished dish becoming too much like baby food.
You can see from the photo below that the cabbage is still quite chunky, this is what you are looking for.
What to flavor red cabbage with?
As well as the delicious spices you see above (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise) this red cabbage has balsamic vinegar in it, to add great tang. Plenty of brown sugar to make it nice and sweet and my secret ingredient…
Are you ready for it?
Yes this dish has a childhood favourite in it. Ribena! Or a supermarket blackcurrant cordial – I use Coles own!
It adds a delicious sweet fruity taste to the cabbage, plus it thickens to a wonderful glossy glaze.
Wait what is cordial?
Cordial is a concentrate that you add water to, to make a long drink. It is very common in the UK and Australia. On my trip to the States in May, I did a LOT of supermarket research and found that although you can buy Ribena it isn’t in many stores and cordial isn’t sold in any stores.
Cordial is different to the frozen fruit juice. This is a concentrated, very sweet syrup that can be diluted to make a drink.
So what can I use instead of cordial?
I tried this braised red cabbage with Kool Aid liquid concentrate and you get a reasonably good dish using the grape flavor. But it wasn’t quite right. So I moved in a different direction and have found that if you use blackcurrant jam and water, it works well too.
So if you can’t find cordial in your stores, use 1/4 cup of blackcurrant jam mixed with 3 tbsp boiling water.
If you like your cabbage less sweet then you can also replace the cordial with red wine. This adds nice flavor but no sweetness.
How long to cook red cabbage for?
Red cabbage either needs to be eaten raw so it keeps it crunch or cooked long and slow so it becomes tender. Anything in between leads to what I call the tooth squeak stage. Where it rubs on your teeth and makes an awful noise. And no one wants to eat noisy food!
To ensure the cabbage is cooked and tender, this dish cooks for over an hour. It has a long braise over a low heat to make it tender, then a higher heat to evaporate all of the liquid and create a nice sticky finish.
I use my large cast iron pan for this as the lid is nice and heavy and I know I can leave it over a low heat.
I don’t have any cast iron pans!
If you don’t have a large cast iron pan with a lid, then any large saucepan will do, just make sure it has a tight fitting lid. There isn’t much liquid added to this dish so you want to keep it trapped inside.
If you don’t have a lid for your large pan then cut a circle of cooking paper out and lay it over the cabbage, then cover the pan with tin foil.
If the lid you have is very lightweight and likely to allow all the steam to escape then, just like above, cut a circle of cooking paper and place that on the cabbage before adding on the lid.
Can you make this ahead?
You sure can! Keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or place it in a freezer safe container and keep it in the deep freeze for up to 2 months.
Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stove top.
Can you freeze red cabbage?
Yes! If you have leftovers just follow the instructions above and you can keep your braised red cabbage in the freezer for up to 2 months.
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Christmas Spiced Braised Red Cabbage
- 1 red cabbage
- 1 red onion
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 green apples
- 1 cinnamon stick – see note 1
- 1 star anise – see note 1
- 4 whole cloves or ¼ tsp ground cloves – see note 1
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg – see note 1
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup blackcurrant jam/blackcurrant cordial – see note 2
- 2 tbsp boiling water – see note 2
- Remove the core and any thick leaves from the red cabbage then, cut into a chunky shred and set to one side. (see post for pictures)
- Peel and finely chop the onion.
- Melt the butter in a large pan, over a medium heat and add the onion.
- Cook the onion in the butter for a 3-4 minutes, until soft but not coloured.
- Add in the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves and nutmeg.
- Stir and set over a low heat.
- Add in the cabbage and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Whilst the cabbage is cooking cut the apple into quarters and remove the core, then cut into small chunks.
- Add the apple, brown sugar and vinegar and water to the pan. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low, place on the lid and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick.
- After 50 minutes remove the lid and bring the liquid back to a simmer.
- Stir in the blackcurrant cordial or blackcurrant jam and boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Remove the spices and serve immediately or chill and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days or in the deep freeze for 2 months.
- The spices in this give the dish a real Christmassy flavor, however feel free to leave them out if you prefer a plainer red cabbage dish.
- If you cannot find blackcurrant cordial then use 1/4 cup of blackcurrant jam and thin it down with 3 tablespoons of boiling water.
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