Red cabbage is an amazingly versatile ingredient. Slice it up and toss it in salads, use it as a crunchy component in sandwiches, even serve it pickled or spiced as a condiment. The possibilities are endless! And yet, growing up with a German-Irish mother, I didn't know red cabbage as a vegetable, but rather as a canned ingredient: red cabbage was sweet and slightly syrupy, and it was perfect served with roast pork.
I've since learned that the canned ingredient I ate growing up is easy to make at home, and it's even better this way. The slow-cooked cabbage becomes luxuriously soft and almost buttery, and the perfect amount of sweetness comes from the combination of molasses, apple, and just a bit of sugar. It's a sweet-and-sour treat, perfect as a side dish, alongside applesauce; although I've been known to heap leftovers into a bowl, plop a fried egg on top and call it dinner.
My mother's red cabbage was delicious, heated up slowly in the oven until it formed a bit of a crust. But I prefer slowly braising my own cabbage on the stovetop... it makes the result that much sweeter.
German Red Cabbage Recipe
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sweat the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. When it just begins to brown, add the diced apple. Cook an additional 5 minutes, until the apple starts to soften.
Add the molasses and white sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the cider vinegar and stir to loosen everything that's stuck to the bottom of the pan. If necessary, you can add a few tablespoons of water at this point.
Add the cabbage, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook without stirring for about 15 minutes, then toss the cabbage. Continue cooking, covered, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the cabbage has softened and reduced. You can add a few tablespoons of water if necessary.
When ready to serve, turn the heat up to high and allow the cabbage to form a crust on the bottom.