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Wednesday, 26 November 2014 23:21

Grandma Thomae's Red Cabbage

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The story goes that my mother - being of Yankee heritage - was required to learn how to make this recipe before her mother-in-law would allowed her to marry into her proud German line!

  • Ingredients: 1 head red cabbage (2 to 4 lbs, strip off any dried outer leaves till you get to nice glossy ones.)

    2-4 strips bacon  (Use 4 if very lean, or just 2 if quite fatty)
    1-2 medium onions, sliced very thin
    4 tbsp water (for deglazing the pan)

    6-12 whole cloves - use more if they're small
    1 bay leaf
    Dash of black pepper (I use fresh-ground)
    ~ 1/2 tsp salt

    3/4 cup brown sugar
    1/3 cup cider vinegar

  • Instructions: Quarter the cabbage, cut out and discard its more-or-less conical solid core.  "Shred" or slice the remainder 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick, put in a Crockpot or deep kettle.

    Fry the bacon (to tender, not crisp); add 2 strips to the pot and eat any excess.  Brown the onions in the bacon fat until translucent, add to the pot.   Add bay leaf, salt & pepper, and the heads of the cloves (crumbled to powder, between your fingers); discard the spiky part of each clove.

    Combine the brown sugar & vinegar in a smallish bowl, mix well, pour as much of it as possible over the cabbage etc.  Use 4 tbsp of water to deglaze the pan in which you browned the onions, pour that water first into the vinegar-sugar bowl to collect any residue, and thence into the main pot.

    Now here my method departs from "Grandma's", who didn't have a Crockpot.  She wrote "Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer.  Cover and cook for at least 1 hour, or until cabbage is tender."
     But, using a Crockpot, I prefer to start on High for 1 -2 hours (which includes the warm-up time), then turn it to Low and let it cook for a minimum of 4 hours more (but overnight is fine.)  Or if starting it just before going to bed, I may let it first cook overnight on Low, then give it at least an hour on High in the morning, then back to Low until time to eat it.
     I think the first method is slightly better.  The crockpot's Low setting isn't quite hot enough to soften the cabbage, so starting with High breaks it down, then the long period on Low lets it soak up all the flavorings.
      You don't really have to use a crockpot; what seems to matter is that a long period of slow cooking follows high-enough heat to break down the cell walls.

      And there are those who think that no matter how good it is when first served, the part that gets put away in the refrigerator and then reheated the next day tastes even better.

    Oh, by the way, if you throw away the solid core part, I'd use the same quantities of everything else regardless of whether it was a 2-lb or 4-lb head of cabbage, because most of the needed liquid will come from the cabbage itself as it cooks.

  • Serves: 6-8
  • Cuisine: European - German
  • Cooking method: Slow cook/crockpot
  • Special ingredients: no dried fruits, no fresh / raw fruits that don't get cooked by the end of the recipe, no seeds, no beans / legumes / pulses, no grains
  • Just right for...: Crowds/parties, Comfort food, Thanksgiving, Winter favorites
  • Top 8 allergens?: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, nut-free, peanut-free
  • Active/prep time: 30-45 minutes
  • Total time (inc active/prep): 9-10 hours
  • Substitution ideas: For a lower histamine version, replace the vinegar and 1/4 cup of the sugar with 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice.
  • Serving suggestions: Terrific addition to your Thanksgiving menu - and goes great in your leftover turkey sandwiches!
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