German red cabbage was a staple at holiday meals when I was a girl. My parents immigrated to the United States from Denmark and Iceland in 1950. They brought their traditions with them, and red cabbage was an important one.
Red cabbage isn't just a German dish. Whether the main course is duck, goose, or a succulent pork roast, this sweet and sour combination is loved all over Scandinavia and northern Europe.
Let's face it. A plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing may be delicious, but it can look pretty boring. The pop of color red cabbage adds to the plate is pretty spectacular.
This dish is a little sweet and a little tangy. The flavors pair exceptionally well with a typical holiday menu. And it's good for you! This dish is extremely nutritious, high in fiber, and low in calories. Winner, winner, turkey dinner!
Chop a medium onion and saute it in a heavy pot. Use bacon drippings if you have some because it adds so much great flavor. I was amazed today when I saw a new product on the grocer's shelves: a tub of bacon drippings. What an amazing idea!
If you don't have any drippings, use real butter. When the onions are soft, transparent, and fragrant, add a whole unpeeled apple you have cored and chopped.
Let that mixture get nice and soft, then add a small head of red cabbage you have shredded. Put 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a teaspoon or so of coarse salt in the cabbage-apple-onion mixture. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the cabbage braise slowly.
Stir it occasionally. It will form more juice as it cooks down. The cabbage will be tender but not mushy after about an hour or an hour and a half. Now, you can refrigerate it and warm it up when needed.
This dish tastes even better reheated, so it's a good one to make a day or two ahead of the feast. Let's hear it for as many do-ahead dishes as we can make! When you reheat it, you may want to add a little more sugar, vinegar, salt, or even a pat of butter until it tastes just right to you.
This is exceptionally good with sausage or pork roast, too! My dad loved adding cold red cabbage to his turkey or pork sandwich when it was time to enjoy the leftovers!!
And speaking of leftovers, it's great with another family favorite, Norma Jean's Chicken and Dressing Casserole!
Our daddy has been gone for many, many years, but every time I make this dish, I think about him and growing up with all the old country traditions.
Our mom was in assisted living last year, and she wasn't able to spend Thanksgiving with us because of a Covid outbreak. So I took some tradition to her. I filled a little casserole dish for her with our favorite chicken and dressing casserole on one side and German red cabbage on the other.
I warmed it up, snapped the lid on it, and slipped it into an insulated bag with a fork. It was only a five-minute trip to the facility where she lived. I zipped over there, where a kind staff member hustled her little care package to her apartment.
When I got home, I called her to see how she liked it. She was still eating it when I called and said it was wonderful. "It's just not a holiday without German red cabbage." That's what I thought, momma, that's what I thought.
I would love to hear about your family traditions and holiday dishes! What is the one dish that brings back warm memories of holiday dinners when you were growing up?
If you liked this recipe, you are my people! If you like this recipe, please share it on your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! It would sure tickle me, and I would be ever so grateful!
Love, GB (Betty Streff)
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