Colorful and Tasty Braised Red Cabbage

It’s good to have something bright on your plate these cold, dark days. A couple of weeks ago, reader Susan Mayer in Northport asked if I had a favorite recipe for braised red cabbage and I reported that, in fact, I didn’t, and I thought maybe one of Taste Buds’ readers would so I asked you all. Meanwhile, she said, “Maybe I’ll just wing one up from scratch and see how it flies!”

Sure enough, Susan sent along the results of her experiment and my sister, Sally Oliver out in Somerville sent one for a Danish style braised cabbage.

The operating principle in braised red cabbage seems to be to start with some kind of fat, in Susan’s case, olive oil, though she noted bacon fat was an option, and in my sister’s recipe, butter. Onion and garlic seem to be optional, but something sweet—sugar, white or brown—and something sour—vinegar, either white, cider, or red wine vinegar—is required. To those you add shredded red cabbage and cook for quite a while. Susan topped it off with some red wine, Sally’s recipe called for red currant jelly, and both called for a bit of grated apple. Because it is Danish, Sally’s recipe called for caraway seeds.

By now, you all know how much I like tinker-ability in a recipe and this one has loads of it. I used half a small red cabbage because there are two of us eating here these days, and I whipped out my mandolin to do the shredding. I used butter, cider vinegar, light brown sugar, and instead of grated apple, I dropped in some applesauce I had already made. I used red currant jelly. It takes a couple of hours to cook slowly and gently, perfect for the back of a wood stove, or you might prefer to stick it in an oven at 325 degrees. This braised cabbage is delicious, brightly flavored, and a lovely cheerful color on the plate. It is even better the next day.

Braised Red Cabbage
  • 1 medium, about 2 pounds, red cabbage
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ to ½ cup water
  • ⅓ cup cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated apple
  • ¼ cup currant jelly or ¼ cup red wine
  1. Shred the cabbage finely.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy cookpot.
  3. Add onion and garlic and cook in butter until they soften, then add sugar, salt, water and vinegar and bring to a boil.
  4. Add cabbage and toss until cabbage is coated, then cover and cook over a low heat for a couple of hours. Check occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t cook dry, and add a dribble of water if needed.
  5. A few minutes before serving, add the apple and currant jelly or wine, toss again, and reheat before serving.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.