I have my husband's grandmother Violet to thank for introducing me to my favorite holiday side dish: Danish red cabbage, which is a mix of vinegar, sugar, lots of butter, a jar of red currant jelly, and two heads of chopped red cabbage. I’ve never seen Violet make it, but I’ve heard that when she does, she tends to it all day, dipping a fork into her Dutch oven often to taste and adjust and season. Apparently, no one in the family makes it as well as Violet.
Every year in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I look forward to pulling out her handwritten recipe card and attempting to replicate this old family standby. I love it so much, in fact, that I associate red cabbage with only this dish. And as soon as the holidays pass, I don't want to think about any other cabbage preparation besides this one, the following fall.
So when heads of red cabbage (also called purple cabbage) show up in my CSA box, I struggle to put them to use, often shoving them in the vegetable bin where they sit for weeks until I shred them into a basic slaw or simply roast them in wedges. Both are preparations that always leave me wanting.
How to Prep & Store Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is coarser than green and, especially when served raw, needs a little more attention, more seasoning, and a bright, sharp dressing to draw out its sweetness. It should feel firm and heavy, with shiny leaves laid tightly against one another.
Store it in a cool environment such as your fridge, basement, or garage, and when you're ready to prep, remove any outer leaves that look wilted or scraggly. Then, proceed with preparing as your recipe directs. If you're preparing the cabbage for a raw salad, cut it in half from pole to pole, then remove the triangular-shaped core in each half with a sharp knife. Cooking it instead? Boiling it for a couple of minutes in salted water should remove some of its pungency.
Red cabbage's firm texture makes it ideal for slaws and salads, where it won’t wilt under a hearty dressing. But as with all cabbages, red cabbage can be braised, steamed, stir-fired, stuffed, or made into sauerkraut—here are a few recipe ideas.
Thinly sliced red cabbage and finely grated beets bring tons of bright color to this wintry salad that's earthy, tangy, and just the slightest bit sweet.
A one-pot stew filled with tons of hearty vegetables, like red cabbage, potatoes, and black-eyed peas, plus thick slices of pork sausage that bring rich flavor to the broth.
If you're a fan of crispy edges, take your braised red cabbage over the top and let the outside layer get a bit charred—what's underneath will still be nice and tender.
This recipe took home the top spot for our "Your Best Grilled Pork" recipe contest, and it's not hard to see why: The pork burgers are smoky and juicy, the red cabbage slaw balances with crunch, and the buns are buttery soft.
This passed-down recipe for glazed cabbage strikes just the right balance between sweet and sour, and makes an A+ holiday side dish (perfect for serving next to creamy mashed potatoes and slices of roast chicken).
Inspired by the typically German combo of pork and red cabbage, this perfectly moist tenderloin and cider-glazed red cabbage make the ultimate fall dinner.
In this vibrant crunchy salad, chickpeas are roasted with za'atar and tossed with shredded red cabbage, fennel, carrots, mint, feta, and more.
Another red cabbage slaw we simply can't get enough of—it's used here for topping chicken tacos, but it'd taste just as good with grilled meats, burgers, you name it.
This super-salad is everything you could ever want in a desk lunch (especially if you're working from home)—it's filling, creamy, tangy, and crunchy all at once.
"A technique for bringing out the hidden beauty in cabbage—and a soupy, risotto-ish cure for the end-of-winter blues," writes Genius Creative Director and Founding Editor Kristen Miglore. Sign us up.
You had us at "warm bacon dressing."
A stewy, soul-warming dish you'll want to keep in rotation all winter long.
Yes, you can use banana bread for sandwiches (just griddle it first).
"It's a dish from nowhere," says food writer Lavanya Narayanar. "Though it has South Indian flashes and contains many common North Indian spices, I've never come across anything quite like it.
Whoever said that vegetables are boring has clearly never met this towering summer sandwich, spread with a zingy basil mayo you'll want to put on everything.
The paprika- and cayenne-spiced chicken thighs might be the star of these lettuce wraps, but they certainly wouldn't feel complete without a shredded red cabbage garnish.
What's your favorite red cabbage recipe? Tell us in the comments!
This article was updated in September 2020 by the Food52 editors.
Photos by Alexandra Stafford.
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