Growing up I remember eating cabbage in one of two ways – either in mom’s coleslaw or in New England Boiled Dinner (a.k.a. Corned Beef and Cabbage). The former is a family favorite, made by my Grandma Pat and passed down to mom (who thankfully honored the recipe, onions and all). It’s cabbage the way it should be: crisp, crunchy and playing the leading role. The latter recipe, on the other hand, was a crime committed against all vegetables involved, but most egregiously against the cabbage. Boiled for hours on end, whole carrots, turnips, potatoes and the occasional parsnip would emerge from the pot liquor beleaguered but recognizable. The root vegetables managed to retain their shape and a hint of their original flavor, but the cabbage was a complete loss – a limp and lifeless jellyfish of a vegetable. With no internal structure, virtually no color, and only a hint of flavoring from the broth, I’m convinced that the cabbage was given top billing in the name of the dish only as some sort of booby prize.
From these formative experiences I gathered that cooking cabbage was not a good idea. I played it safe for many years, making coleslaw variations, slicing cabbage thinly on salads for a crunch. Occasionally, if I was feeling really wild, I’d throw cabbage into a stir fry at the very last minute, flirting with the short window between bright, crunchy crucifer and dull, soggy and crucified.
When I came across a recipe for braised cabbage, which required cooking red cabbage for AN HOUR, I was grateful to have had my boiled dinner experiences to steer me clear. That is, until I was served braised cabbage. Where had this been all my life? Braised in apple cider vinegar with heaps of caraway seeds and sliced apples, this cabbage is like a sweet and tangy, warm coleslaw – toothsome and brightly flavored, despite its long cook time.
As I wrote up the recipe and worked on the photos (first photos on the blog from a real DSLR!) my boyfriend plowed through three full plates of this cabbage, straight from the fridge. I actually prefer this recipe hot (my, how the tables have turned) but I’ll admit that cold is pretty darn good too.
Braised Cabbage with Apples and Caraway
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 large head red cabbage, outer leaves removed, quartered, and cored
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
salt to taste
Cut each of the cabbage quarters in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch slices. In a broad bottomed braising pan, saute red onion over medium heat, adding small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking. When onions are soft and slightly caramelized, stir in all remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Cabbage should be softened to an ‘al dente’ consistency – still with some crunch.