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.