Grandma’s Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage

The first time I tried to duplicate my grandmother’s sweet & sour red cabbage – I didn’t have a recipe. This was back in the 80s and I don’t think I even had internet service at the time – I did have something called Prodigy. I was going through my recipe files and searching through cookbooks looking for a recipe. Finally I decided I would wing it, trying to remember what all went into the dish. I shredded a head of red cabbage and added a shredded apple to it. I thought it needed some vinegar and brown sugar so I added those.

I was cooking some pork chops to go with the dish at the same time,  and all the while, Bob – my significant other – was looking over my shoulder watching. I thought he ought to KNOW how to make sweet & sour red cabbage, having had parents who immigrated to the USA from Germany (whereas I am second generation German/Hungarian). .  Finally, as I was stirring the red cabbage and coming to a close approximation of what I thought Sweet & Sour red cabbage ought to taste like – I asked him “Well! How did YOUR mother make this dish?” – to which (and I have laughed about this for 20 years) he replied “I think she just opened a jar”. J

OK, so you can buy sweet and sour red cabbage in a jar. But if you want to make the real thing from scratch, here is a recipe to get you started. But don’t be afraid to experiment – if it’s not sweet enough to suit you, add a little more brown sugar. If it’s not tart enough, add another splash of apple cider vinegar. I don’t think you can go wrong playing around with this dish.  By the way, I came across a recipe that used 2 ripe Bose or Anjou pears instead of apples – and I thought that might be an interesting change. I pulled a bunch of recipes out of my files but most of them are pretty much the same except for the quantities. Some recipes also have onion or bacon or bacon drippings in them.

Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage

You will need:

2 TBSP butter

5 cups shredded red cabbage

1 cup shredded green apple

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp ground cloves

Put the butter, cabbage, apple, and sugar in a large pot. Pour over it the vinegar and water, and add the seasonings – salt, pepper and ground cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat, cover and let simmer until the cabbage is tender –

1 ½ to 2 hours. Less if you want it a little crunchier. (I am probably a stickler for keeping cabbage undercooked. My mother, when she cooked cabbage, would put it on the stove to cook at 9 am…for dinner at 6 pm. I grew up thinking I hated cabbage – I thought it was slime. Years later, I “discovered” CABBAGE!)

Here is one more for a braised red cabbage:

You will need:

1 medium size red cabbage, shredded

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp salt

4 bacon slices, diced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

¾ cup red wine*

¼ cup sugar

¼ tsp minced garlic

Toss together the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Add onions and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir I cabbage mixture, apples, red wine, sugar and minced garlic. Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer 30-35 minutes.

*Just an FYI – I keep a big bottle of Burgundy wine in the pantry just for cooking purposes. Anytime a recipe calls for red wine, this is what I use. A large bottle of Burgundy wine is inexpensive – less than $10.00 and you will get a lot of use out of it.

This last one is written in pencil on an old, yellowed, faded recipe card and is titled simply “Red Cabbage”.

You will need:

4 cups shredded red cabbage

3 unpeeled apples, sliced

1/3 cup vinegar

3 tsp brown sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tsp salt

3 TBP bacon drippings

¼ tsp caraway seeds

Put all ingredients in skillet. Cover and steam for about 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Serves 6.


Happy Cooking!



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