How to cook red cabbage

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  • Learn how to cook red cabbage with our easy step-by-step red cabbage recipe.

    Knowing how to cook red cabbage will bring out its natural sweetness and give a mild sweet and sour dish which is delicious served with roast pork, baked gammon, venison or duck.Most types of cabbage are best cooked quickly but red cabbage, a winter vegetable, comes into its own when slow cooked with apples, spices, dried fruit and a little wine or cider vinegar.

    Red cabbage is the perfect accompaniment to a Christmas turkey or Boxing Day ham and is a great recipe to make ahead and either keep in the fridge for a couple of days or to freeze for up to a month. Sometimes when cooking red cabbage the colour turns blue, if this happens simply add a little lemon juice or vinegar to restore the red colour.

    Red cabbage is also delicious eaten raw, cut into thin shreds and mix with celery, apple and walnuts for a fresh winter slaw with crunch which is perfect with burgers, ribs and jacket potatoes.

    It’s also a traditional vegetable for pickling, thinly sliced and steeped in pickling vinegar, the colour and flavour really helps to pep up cold meats and cheese. When buying red cabbage choose one that is firm with bright leaves. It should keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Before learning how to cook red cabbage, prepare it by removing the outer leaves and cutting it in half from top to stalk, not round the middle. Cut in half again, remove the centre white stalk and then thinly slice the cabbage or shred in a food processor.

    How do you cut red cabbage?

    Source: alamy.com

    Great news – it’s not difficult. Though you will need a sharp knife because red cabbage can be much tougher than your usual white cabbage. 

    Our Food Director, Elisa Roche, says: “The easiest way is to chop off the woody base, then slice the cabbage in half lengthways, then cut the two halves again lengthways (so you have quartered the cabbage). Finally, cut out the tough core – you’re then ready to get slicing.

    “How thinly or thickly you slice your cabbage will depend on what you’re cooking. If the red cabbage is being cooked quickly then cut it quite thinly; if you’re cooking it for a while then a little thicker is fine. It’s extremely easy with a sharp knife but some food processors also have attachments that you can use. If you want longer slices, you can cut the cabbage in half lengthways, then cut out the core, lay the cabbage flat side down and slice.”

    How to cook red cabbage in the oven

    Most recipes for red cabbage involve slow cooking the cabbage on the hob. However, it is possible to roast your red cabbage. In this recipe, we’ve added some fruity flavours – but you can cook without, if you prefer.

    Ingredients

    • 1 small red cabbage
    • 2 small cooking apples such as Bramley’s
    • I small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 25g butter
    • 2tbsp light muscovado sugar
    • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 2tbsp raisins
    • Pinch of grated nutmeg
    • Olive oil

    Step 1: Preheat the oven

    Preheat your oven.
    For a slowly cooked cabbage: cook at 150C, Gas 2 for 11/2 – 2 hrs.
    For a cabbage which is a little crispier on top: roast at 200C, Gas 6 for 35-45mins.

    Step 2: Cut your cabbage and add flavour

    To get the best results, slice your cabbage quite thinly and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle over a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss to cover all the red cabbage. Once you’ve got your red cabbage all oiled up – it’s time to add some additional flavour, but you could leave it without if you prefer.

    Layer the cabbage and apples with the remaining ingredients in casserole dish. Add 3tbsp water, cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary. For a more traditional flavour, you could try adding just cinnamon and orange zest. Our Deputy Food Editor, Rose Fooks, loves to add caraway seeds and a little balsamic vinegar to enhance the sweetness of the red cabbage. You don’t want to add too much liquid at this point or you will end up braising the cabbage.

    Step 3: Cook and serve

    Once the cabbage is nice and tender, and has soaked up all the flavours, serve with your favourite meats or store in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat when ready.

    How do you braise red cabbage?

    This also involves cooking the cabbage in the oven but with more liquid than roasting. Because there is cooking liquid, the cabbage will be softer in texture and also have its own sauce.

    When braising you usually fry food first. You can fry the red cabbage in a little oil to soften it slightly then mix in some fragrant spices. Cinnamon and ginger work well, especially during the festive period. If you want to add anything like shallots or a grated apple then fry this with the red cabbage first before mixing the spices in. 

    You will then need to add the cooking liquid. We recommend red wine, cider, apple juice or beetroot juice. Cover and place in the oven at 160C, Gas 3 for 11/2 – 2 hrs. Stir occasionally just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Braised cabbage is great at Christmas or with sausages and mashed potatoes. For more advice, read our braised red cabbage recipe.

    How to pickle red cabbage

    Pickled red cabbage recipe
    READ MORE: Watch our video and follow our recipe for pickled red cabbage

    Preserving is a great way to use up vegetables. Especially those that are going to go off before being used or if you grow lots at home. The great thing is that pickled vegetables last a long time – most last at least 6 months.

    To pickle red cabbage, you will need sterilised vinegar-proof preserving jars to store the pickled cabbage in, salt, distilled vinegar and some flavourings such as chilli, red onions and mustard seeds.

    Slice your cabbage and red onions (if using), cover in salt and leave overnight. The next day, wash the salt off, drain and dry the cabbage and onions. Fill the sterilised jars with the cabbage and onion mix, place your choice of spices in the jars and fill each one with vinegar so that it covers the cabbage. Seal the jars and leave in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks before eating. Store in the fridge once opened. Pickled cabbage is great with cheese or served at a BBQ.