German Braised Red Cabbage with Apple (Rotkohl, Rotkraut, Blaukraut)

28 Nov

Countdown to Christmas! Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent so I decided to make something special. We had this…

Beef Rouladen with Braised Red Cabbage and Spaetzle

Beef Rouladen with Braised Red Cabbage and Spaetzle noodles – everything made from scratch at home. I used my spaetzle recipe using 100 gr soy flour and 100 gr chickpea flour (instead of 200gr chickpea flour, reducing the chickpea-ey taste). I’ll give you the beef rouladen recipe in the next post and below, braised red cabbage is the topic of this post.

The first time I enjoyed braised red cabbage as an accompaniment was at my mother in-law’s. I asked her for her recipe and she showed me a jar. She said to buy this from the supermarket, put it in a pan, throw in some spices, heat up and serve. So that’s what I did whenever I wanted to eat braised red cabbage.

Braised red cabbage is a delicious accompaniment to any hearty, meaty meal. To confuse foreigners, this is called Rotkohl, Rotkraut or Blaukraut in German. Rotkohl and Rotkraut basically mean red cabbage. Blaukraut means blue cabbage – huh?? Well, if you don’t add vinegar or an acidic fruit to the cabbage while cooking, it won’t turn a deep red colour but turns blue. To make things worse, the uncooked cabbage is a dark purple!

Whatever it’s called, this cabbage is usually served with duck, goose and game when in season but beef dishes go just as well. The dish is popular during (but not restricted to) the Christmas season because of the Christmasy spices that go in – cloves, allspice, juniper berries, cinnamon, bay leaves – so your kitchen smells heavenly when cooking.

Throughout the years I’ve tried all kinds of braised red cabbage – from jars, from cans, from packets, in various restaurants, some made with apple, some flavoured with jam, some with orange. Not all, but some of the ready-made types and also some served in restaurants, were mushy which I didn’t like. I felt I needed to make my own to get the consistency right.  My husband said ‘Forget it. It’s too much work.’ So I continued buying my braised cabbage from the supermarket shelves till … one day I needed to use some red cabbage for another dish and since cabbages here are always so gigantic, the rest sat in my fridge for a couple of days. So I decided to check out how complicated it was to make this braised red cabbage. OK, I must admit, the first time I sliced the cabbage by hand – too thickly – and it didn’t turn out really good. Then I bought a mandolin slicer and the second time I made the same recipe, I sliced the cabbage with the slicer and what a difference! The trick is – use a mandolin slicer. You can’t achieve the even, very thin slices by hand. When you get to the end of the cabbage piece while grating and can’t go anymore, use a knife and slice by hand. I do pick out the very thick core slices and discard them. Of course, if you possess a high-tech fancy kitchen machine which does everything, you’ll get your cabbage sliced in a jiffy.

Well, I’ve now come up with a ‘low carb’ version by omitting the sugar, cornstarch and blackcurrant jam in a recipe I liked. The only sugar thing I’ve left in is the balsamico vinegar and crema di balsamico. Apple is my sweetener.

If you cube your apple too small, you won’t see it at the end as it’ll just turn into mush and dissolve – which is ok. If you would like to see the apple pieces, set some aside and put them in during the last 15-20 min of cooking time.

You need to make this dish a day or two ahead so that the flavours can develop. And if you know that you’ve got too much for the upcoming meal then follow the instructions below to conserve the cabbage. Alternatively, if you have space in the freezer, you may freeze the leftover cabbage in tubs.

German Braised Red Cabbage with Apple 

(serves a crowd as a side dish)

1 head red cabbage, sliced finely with a mandoline

60 gr butter (traditionalists use goose fat)

1 large onion, chopped

400ml red wine

3 cloves garlic, chopped

glug of white vinegar

2 Tbsp Balsamico vinegar

5 Tbsp Crema di Balsamico

5 cloves

8 juniper berries

6 allspice berries

3 bay leaves

2 cooking apples, cored and cubed


3 Tbsp erythritol

optional: a piece of orange peel

Melt the butter in a pot huge enough to contain all your cabbage. You want it to be big enough so that you can stir the cabbage occasionally without bits flying out of the pot.

Add the onions and sauté till glazed. Add the cabbage. Cook till it collapses a bit. Then add the red wine and all the other ingredients. I would suggest that you add the white vinegar, salt and sugar bit-by-bit to taste. You’re going to need quite a bit of salt and vinegar. I found 3 Tbsp erythritol to be just right for us. Mix through thoroughly. Turn up the heat and once it starts to blubber, cover the pot, turn down the fire and let it braise for 30-40  min till the cabbage is soft. Don’t forget to stir the contents of the pot once in a while to ensure even cooking and to make sure the bottom doesn’t get burnt. At the end, check the seasonings and adjust to your liking.

Let the cabbage stand overnight for the flavours to develop.

Conserving the cabbage: If you already know that this is way to much, then before the end of the cooking time, get some very clean, dry glass jars (with corresponding covers) ready. Pack the hot cabbage into the jars right up to the top, pressing down tightly. Spoon in some sauce. Leave NO space, whether on top or further down in the jar. Cover jar tightly. If the last bit of cabbage is not enough to fill a jar as described, then you can’t conserve it. Put all your jars in a larger pot, turned upside down. Fill the pot half full with cold water, letting the water run over the jars to cool  it down. Leave overnight like this. Next day, dry your jars and store in a cool place.

I’ve been told that you can keep your food for a few months like this but I haven’t really tried it yet. I’m new to this method. My red cabbage has been good one month down the road and I’ve still got two more jars. I’ve also done apple compote this way and that’s kept two months so far.

Print this recipe – German Braised Red Cabbage with Apple


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