Saturday, November 01, 2008

Braised red cabbage

Braised red cabbage is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. I grew up on a dish my mother called German red cabbage. In almost three decades of wedded bliss with my beloved, I've never been able to convince her to eat it.

Both of my daughters will eat red cabbage when I prepare it for holiday meals, despite their mother's influence to the contrary. Their brother falls into the other camp.

I've seen similar success with with my wife's family. About half of her family likes it.

So, I was mildly surprised when I served braised red cabbage from Chesapeake and Ohio Dining Car Recipes to the El Dorado Western Railway volunteers last Saturday. Most of the 17 participants enjoyed the dish.


Formula 605 * Quantity - 15 Garnitures

2 tablespoons lard
1 head red cabbage, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat lard and add onions, bay leaves and garlic. Allow to brown very lightly, then add shredded red cabbage, mixing very well. Then add vinegar, applesauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover with well fitting greased paper. Simmer for a few minutes and finish in oven until thoroughly done. Check seasoning.

Note: Garniture refers to an embellishment, or something that garnishes. Today we would simply say the recipe yields 35 garnishes, or something like that. Serve 1/2-cup portions to yield 15 garnitures.


I learned to eat red cabbage at a young age, along with roast turkey, leg of lamb and pork loin. As a child, I watched my mother and paternal grandmother dump gallons (or so it seemed at the time) of good Heinz cider vinegar into the holiday cabbage each Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The stuff grows on you. As long as one Karoly remains on this earth, we will feast on red cabbage at our holiday celebrations.

With slight modifications, this family recipe comes from my grandmother, Bertha Karoly, 1901-1988, and her daughter-in-law, Marilyn Karoly.

3 ounces bacon, copped
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1 cup apple sauce
1 cup cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, brown the bacon until all its fat is rendered. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Reduce heat to low. Add the onions and apple slices. Cover and sweat for about 10 minutes, being careful not to brown the onions or apples.

Add the cabbage and mix. Season to taste. Add liquids and cover. Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until done. Remove lid and continue to simmer for 10 minutes of cooking so excess liquid can evaporate. Yields about 15 (1/2-cup) portions.

Serving Ideas: German red cabbage is the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish, especially sauteed pork chops or roast port loin. Just think of it as "German applesauce!" (Of course, there's nothing wrong with serving applesauce alongside the cabbage.)

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