Oma’s German Red Cabbage Recipe- Skip the Jar, Make it Yourself!
My daughter just came out of her room and says “the house smells like Christmas, how long have I been studying?” It’s true, even though red cabbage doesn’t take much time to make, and fits with a lot of different meats… in our house, I usually make it for the holidays. My German red cabbage recipe is actually my mother’s red cabbage recipe. Only, this year I realized it was time to measure things and write them down (well, mostly… how much wine goes into the red cabbage versus how much goes in to the chef is entirely your choice). Then of course, I forgot to take photos (Christmas time is crazy enough without me trying to photograph every meal…). So today, a random Wednesday, we are having red cabbage with dinner! And the house smells like Christmas.
Rotkohl or Blaukraut
Just like Potato Salad, there are approximately 954,507 ways to make German Red Cabbage. Some people make it with bacon, or added pork fats, and I’ve seen recipes that add cornstarch to thicken it. Some are cooked long, some short. Red Cabbage even comes with different names depending on where you are in Germany. At Christmas in OUR house it was Rotkohl (red cabbage), on alternate Christmas’s in my Bavarian god-mother’s house, it was Blau Kraut (blue cabbage).
This recipe that I grew up with isn’t cooked down as far, and since there is no meat, it works as a nice vegetarian side dish (leave out the butter, and it’s vegan). Sweetness comes from sugar, tartness from Apples and Apple Cider vinegar. And red wine mellows the flavor (and the cook).
Note- The Red Wine is optional, so I leave it to you. Just know that the alcohol from the Red Wine will burn off, so you don’t have to worry about serving to kids.
Make Red Cabbage Ahead of Time!
You can shred the cabbage in NO TIME AT ALL if you use a Food Processor. Even with the bigger one, you might have to empty the bowl twice. I use the Cuisinart… because it has easy to clean off press-buttons, and the parts go into the dishwasher.
Once the cabbage is cooking, you don’t have to stand over it. Just let it cook and break down the onions and apples (I swear, they VANISH… which is nice, because the kids can’t possibly pick the onions out. Instead, they fuss about the cloves). Stir occasionally. Taste towards the end and add any extra vinegar or sugar that might be missing. Letting it sit for a while in the pot after it’s done cooking will let the flavors mellow. To me it’s better the next day (maybe that’s because my mother always cooked the red cabbage the day before Christmas to free a spot on the stove ON Christmas).
It also freezes very well. Just put it in containers… LABEL IT (no, you won’t remember what’s in the package)… and when you are ready to eat thaw and heat.
This red cabbage recipe makes around 7 cups of cooked cabbage.
German Red Cabbage Recipe
Serve with Roasts, Rouladen, Christmas Goose, or Duck.
Oma's German Red Cabbage Recipe
- 1 Head of Red Cabbage
- 1 medium yellow Onion
- 1-2 Apples sour ones, like a Granny Smith
- 2-3 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 8-10 whole cloves
- 2 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt to start
- 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper or a few Peppercorns
- optional- Red Wine I used a Merlot use 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
- Set a pot on the stove (I used my soup pot to cook the Cabbage, so it wouldn't get crowded.)
- Add about an inch of water.
- Peel off the outer layers of the red cabbage if they look damaged.
- Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core.
- Then slice the cabbage into thin shreds (about 1/4 inch?). I use a food processor, so it goes fast, but you can use a knife.
- Dice the Onion
- Peel and dice the Apple/s
- Add the red cabbage, onion, and apples to the pot.
- Add the butter, bay leaves, cloves, sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and wine to the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil, stir everything together.
- Reduce heat to simmer, stir again
- cover and let cook for 30-40 minutes.
- Check it from time to time. Stir.
- At around 30 minutes, taste it.
- Add sugar or vinegar to taste
- Add some wine for color and flavor.
- At around 45 minutes check again.
- This is as far as I usually cook it. If you like it softer, cook it another 15 minutes.
- From this point you can serve it.
- Or let it cool, and reheat later.
- Or let it cool, and freeze it in smaller portions.
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Cooking German Red Cabbage
Honestly, it’s not difficult, just put all the ingredients into the pot… and let it cook
After 30 minutes, it will look like this
Cook, and adjust for flavor… you want it to be sweet and tangy.
Cook longer if you like it softer.