Red cabbage is a purple-leaved variety of Brassica oleracea. With ten times more vitamin A and twice as much iron as green cabbage, it is considered one of the healthy foods with dietary fiber and a range of vitamins and minerals. The red pigment comes from plant-based chemicals ( anthocyanins), which change the hue during the cooking to blue unless some acidic agents are added. Sulfur-based compounds contribute the sharp peppery flavor.
Playing with Cooking Methods and Additional Ingredients
Raw red cabbage is often shredded for salads. Braising is one of the most favorite ways to cook red cabbage. Braised red cabbage is a traditional side dish in German and German-influenced (e.g., Alsatian) cuisines. It is served with fatty meats (e.g., grilled sausages, roasted goose) and is supposed to be pretty tart.
Onions, apples, and bacon are almost always present in the recipes for braised cabbage. For vegetarian versions, bacon often is replaced with vegetable oil, for non-vegetarian — with goose or chicken fat.
To maintain the beautiful red color of the cabbage, cooks use a variety of acidic components and their combinations: wine, wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar.
Seasoning and aromatics are the categories of ingredients where you can use your creativity in full. Salt, black pepper, and maybe a little bit of allspice are all the braised red cabbage really needs. A pinch of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom mix will bring some Middle East (or Christmasy!) notes. Want to spice it up some more — temper some yellow or brown mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and minced fresh ginger in oil before the step when you saute onions and apples.
What is Braising
Braising is a combination of two cooking methods. First, saute vegetables over high heat (dry heat). Secondly, add liquid and slowly cook covered over low heat (wet heat). The second step can be done on the stove or in the oven (350F-375F). If you like to keep cabbage slightly crisp, do not saute it. Instead, place julienned cabbage in a bowl and toss it with seasoning and some red wine vinegar. Salt will soften the cabbage drawing out some juices, which should be added back to the liquid for slow cooking.