Red Cabbage For Christmas

It’s never too early to let the shorter days lead one into getting ready for Yule, and this is the time for red cabbage, pickled. My German ancestors did weird things with it, with caraway and lots of bacon fat, and there’s no need to talk about that, because the Danish family I married into has a better idea: finely grated, with butter and red currant jelly. Oh, yes! However, even though I can make it taste the Danish way, perfect for roast duck or for open faced sandwiches, and even though I love the Danish way, I can’t exactly do it the Danish way. Here’s what I mean:

So Far, So Good

Ah, yes, well it starts slow and pretty…

But then it starts picking up speed …


If you think that looks like fun, you’re right. That’s because the camera doesn’t show this:

Gosh, nowhere to even stand. So, I swept that up right away before it stained the floor (success!), and pretty soon I had all the bits that wouldn’t grate, so I got out that knife from Brazil, that we got three decades ago, and that knife from England, that I got last winter, urged them to merge in a happy union, and I was off!

Then I had to sweep again….Still, pretty soon I had a huge pot of cole slaw!


Of course, I forgot the melted butter, so I had to empty it all into a big bowl (and, yeah, you got it, sweep again), but then I was finally all together, with my mind and my body and my enthusiasm all in the same place, and within five minutes it was all sautéed, its bulk reduced by half, I added sugar, vinegar, and red currant jelly, stirred and stirred with a big wooden spoon, and put the lid on it to wait. Four hours later, after adjusting the vinegar three times (I swear, vinegar isn’t what it used to be), I had four quarts of this…

Don’t worry about the white stuff. That’s the vinegar steaming off that does that. When It’s cool, into the freezer it’ll go, in meal-sized packs. Yeah, it’s best if one does all this on Christmas, but the sweeping? I tell ya! It’s best to do that the messy way when one’s Sweetie is out of town at a conference. And so, there you go: Jul, Day 1. Now I have to keep my eye out for a duck.






5 replies »

    • Ah, hmmm, cough cough, you can buy the polish-made German version at a deli. It tastes a bit like East Germany.

      It will be nothing better than OK, but you’ll get the idea, sort of. Something about the industrial process makes the cabbage a bit tough. I think they cheat, actually, and use the high-temperature canning time to do the cooking, which doesn’t really work.

      Easiest is to take a large red cabbage, chop it fine or grate it, sautee in a few tablespoons of butter for 5 minutes, add 1 cup of vinegar and a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2-1 cup of red currant jelly per cabbage, and then simmer it for 3-4 hours. The cabbage will be soft but firm and not crunchy, and the final taste will be sweet and sour: you need to taste both the vinegar, for a bit of bite, and the sweet, which will be fruity, because of the currants, and it shouldn’t be too runny. You can substitute similar fruits, like plum juice or cherry, and you can throw in an apple to sauce out in it, too.

      It is not, I believe, possible to eat roast pork, roast duck, or roast chicken without this on the side, and it’s divine on open-faced sandwiches.

      For the German version, a bit of caraway, bacon fat instead of butter, and for the real hard core Rhineland version, it needs to ferment a bit, like sauerkraut. It comes out very pale. I don’t know how they do all that, and I don’t want to know. Beautiful people, great culture, wonderful cooking, but the Danes have them beat on that final one, much of the time, anyway, but that’s a long story.

      Have fun!



  1. Just when I was wondering just WHAT to do with all those red cabbabes. Not going to wait until christmas American Thanksgiving is going to be my excuse to sweep the floors.


    • Dang, I forgot about American Thanksgiving! Thanks for the reminder. Giving thanks is always good. Double Thanksgivings, even better!


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