Seeing Red (Cabbage)

Photo by Ron Lach on

Red cabbage makes a great side dish to almost any German-style meal. Last month I wrote about Sauerbraten as a main dish and I prefer accompanying it with a nice helping of Rotkohl (red cabbage).Available year round in most stores, red cabbage is often listed as one of the Superfoods. It has far greater health benefits than its green counterpart. The anthocyanins act as dietary antioxidants, as digestive aids, as an anti-inflammatory, and they have potentially protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases.  It also contains 10x more vitamins, cancer-fighting flavonoids, and a winning amount of antioxidants which improve eye, teeth, bone, & immune health.  It is also a great source of vitamin K.

Photo by cottonbro on

The introduction of “cabbage” into Europe has been generally ascribed to the Romans, but it seems probable that the Celts introduced it even earlier. The Celts invaded Mediterranean lands repeatedly from about 600 B.C. to the beginning of the Christian Era, reaching into Asia Minor around 278 B.C. They also reached into the British Isles in the fourth century B.C. Shortly before the beginning of the Christian Era the Romans spread into northern Europe and into Britain.  (a Texas A & M site).
The first description of Red cabbage dates back to 1570 England, though it was introduced to all of Europe by the Romans during the 14th century, during which it was used primarily by peasant families as food for both human and livestock consumption. Red cabbage first appeared in an aristocratic culinary setting in the 18th century. It is now internationally grown and traded throughout all hemispheres.

Photo by cottonbro on

The word cabbage itself is an Anglicized form of the French caboche, meaning head.  Cabbage was introduced to America in 1541-42 by Jacques Cartier, who planted it in Canada on his third voyage. In the United States some of the earliest colonists likely brought cabbage, although there is no written record of it until 1669. In the 18th century it was being grown by American Indians as well as by the colonists. Most varieties in the US originated in Germany and the Low Countries.

There are many recipes for red cabbage, also known as blaukraut. You can even dye things blue when you boil the red cabbage.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on

If you Google it, you will find pages of ideas to try whether cold cabbage slaw or hot Rotkohl. The red adds a nice color to any slaw and is a tasty addition to any hot meal as well. I will share a recipe that I have used with you here. It is easy to follow.

Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

1 kg. (2lb 4 oz) red cabbagesalt & pepper
3 medium cooking apples2 medium onions
2 oz. lardsugar
1 bay leaf2 tsp. vinegar
3 cloves3 tsp. red currant jelly
3 juniper berries (or allspice)4 oz. water
cooking time about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the coarse outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter, remove the core, wash and cut very fine strips (like in pictures above). Peel, quarter, core and dice apples and peel and dice onions. Melt the lard (or Crisco) and sauté the onion. Add the cabbage and apples and sauté. Add the bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries (or allspice), salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar. jelly, and water. Cook until tender and season with salt and sugar.

Variation: Use white wine or red wine instead of water or stir in two tablespoons of cranberry sauce. (I usually use wine.)

Tip: It is a good idea to prepare red cabbage in larger batches and freeze some of it since it takes some time to create. Red cabbage that is to be frozen needs to be cooked only until ‘al dente’, so that is does not soften too much when it is reheated.

Oetker, August. German Cooking Today: The Original. Ceres-Verlag, 1997. p. 167.

Enjoy some red cabbage as you stretching your German culinary dishes. Yum.

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