Last Updated on 3 years by Tim
Braised red cabbage is without a doubt Germany’s most famous vegetable dish. It’s a staple at Christmas dinner for many people where it is most commonly served alongside roast goose and salt potatoes.
It’s the use of warming spices such as cloves, star anise, and allspice that make this dish a wintertime favorite for many German families. It goes perfect with all kinds of stews, roasts, and any other kind of fatty meat.
The preparation of braised red cabbage is dead easy. The only thing you need is some patience, and, to make the dish outstanding, goose fat.
What spices go into German braised red cabbage?
The spice blend used to perfume the cabbage is up to your taste and what you have in your cupboard. I use allspice, clove, star anise, and bay leaf in my recipe.
Some traditional recipes use only cloves while others can list more than ten different spices. In my opinion, it’s best to find a compromise and stick to the most important ones which are clove, star anise, and allspice. Cinnamon is a nice addition in case you have a cinnamon stick lying around but completely optional.
What braising liquid should I use?
For braising the red cabbage you will have to add some kind of braising liquid. In my recipe, the braising liquid is as basic as it can be: water. My grandma wholeheartedly disagrees with this. For her, it’s red wine. A lot of red wine, up to a bottle per head of cabbage. Other people like their red cabbage braised in apple juice which is great if you prefer a sweeter taste as the red wine variant is very acidic.
Braised red cabbage belongs to the dishes which have a sweet and sour flavor profile. If you braise the cabbage in water, you will have to season with sugar and vinegar. If you braise it in red wine, you will have to season with sugar. And if you braise the cabbage in apple juice you will, of course, have to season it with vinegar only. Another German sweet and sour dish I have already introduced you to is the Swabian lentil stew with spätzle.
Which other ingredients go into braised red cabbage?
My recipe for braised red cabbage also contains apples. The addition of apples to braised red cabbage is very common across Germany. The flavors match sensationally. The flavor sensation you get from biting on a little piece of apple brightens up the entire dish and prevents the cabbage from tasting too monotone.
Onions that are sweated in goose fat before braising add a layer of sweetness and flavor complexity. The usage of goose fat to sweat the onions most likely originated from the fact that braised red cabbage is traditionally served at Christmas alongside a roast goose. So there was always leftover goose fat from roasting. I am aware that goose fat is an expensive ingredient to buy but it is totally worth it. If you can’t find it or justify the price, substitute it with lard or clarified butter.
Braised Red Cabbage (‘Blaukraut’)
- 2 tablespoons goose fat (substitute lard or clarified butter)
- 2 medium-sized onions, minced
- 1/2 head of red cabbage, coarsely shredded
- 1 medium-sized tart apple, deseeded and cut into small cubes
- 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, more or less to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 sachet, consisting of 5 allspice berries, 3 cloves, 1 star anise, and 1 bay leaf
- salt, to taste
- Heat the goose fat or lard in a large pot or pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat them for 3-4 minutes or until they start turning translucent. Add the red cabbage and apples and continue sweating the mixture for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cabbage has lost about 1/3 of its original volume. Stir in the vinegar and sugar to taste. Add the sachet and nestle it in between your cabbage. Add about 1/2 cup of water and cover your pan.
- If using a pressure cooker, cook the cabbage on the high-pressure setting for 10 minutes, letting the pressure decrease naturally afterward. If using a traditional stockpot, turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting and let the cabbage gently braise, covered, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cabbage is tender to your liking. Make sure to check your cabbage constantly if using a traditional stockpot. If all the liquid has evaporated before your cabbage is done add more so that it doesn’t burn.
- Season the braised cabbage with salt to taste. Feel free to also add additional vinegar and/ or sugar to taste. Remove the sachet and serve alongside a rich stew or game meat.
Oh how I love red cabbage. This recipe is Christmas for me. My aunt always makes it for our Christmas Eve dinner (and we’ve been going to my Aunt and Uncle’s house for Christmas Eve ever since I was a child). My uncle was born and raised in Germany (Schleswig-Holstein region), moved to the US as a young adult, where he met and married my aunt, (my mom’s sister) who is from Panama — yes, I have an interesting cultural blend! I suspect my Aunt learned to make this from my Uncle’s mom. My ancestry is German on my Dad’s side btw, so I love learning these recipes. Thanks for sharing this one! I’ll have to try it and see if it’s as good as my Aunt’s! ? I’m sure it is!
Yes, red cabbage is served at nearly every christmas dinner in Germany. This recipe is the sweeter Southern version. In Bavaria they also like to add baking soda to the cabbage so that it gets blue, hence the name ‘Blaukraut’. My grandmother is originally from what is now Poland. She makes her red cabbage very different from me. She braises it in a whole bottle of red wine so that it gets quite acidic and red, hence the name ‘Rotkohl’. It’s quite interesting that you can distinguish the region of Germany someone is from based on this one dish. In the south people tend to use more spices like anise, caraway seeds, cloves, juniper berries, and allspice, whereas in the North they mostly only use cloves or no spices at all. I personally love both varities with a slight preference for the Southern style. Whatever roast you have for dinner, you can never go wrong with red cabbage (or sauerkraut)!
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