This is one of the best recipes I know for cooking red cabbage. The spicy, sweet and sour, very seasonal flavours make it a perfect and attractive addition to the Christmas dinner table, but it is also really good eaten at other times of the year. Some months ago this was one of the dishes at one of our parish Sunday lunches, when it was served with slowly cooked beef. The recipe benefits from a long cooking time, so in recent years I have found it best to make a large quantity by cooking the whole cabbage at once, either eating the leftovers the next day or freezing them for another occasion. I recently found a forgotten box in the bottom of the freezer which I had put there after Christmas eleven months earlier. It was fine – we really enjoyed it! Echoing Delia Smith’s words: ‘a real winner of a recipe.’
A number of versions of Spiced Braised Red Cabbage are available. I usually use Delia Smith’s recipe, either from her original version of the book Christmas (Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples), recommended with venison, goose, pork or sausages and mash, or from her Complete Cookery Course (Braised Red Cabbage with Apples), suggested to accompany sausages or cassoulet. (I ought perhaps to try it with my own Cassoulet ‘Franglais’!) It seems to be a good accompaniment for most meats. Sometimes Cranberries are included, which make a particularly Christmassy addition. I have made this recipe in a saucepan on the hob, giving it a long cooking time over a very low heat, but it is far better made in the oven. I follow the recipe almost exactly as it doesn’t really need any improvement, apart from the addition of the optional cranberries and the crushed juniper berries, a flavour which I love. Some recipes add ginger, apple juice, orange juice or stir in ready made cranberry sauce: all these would add their own twist to the basic recipe and the challenge is to get the flavour mixture that you like the best. Although I like the original flavours well enough, I may well experiment with alternative flavours so this recipe could well change as I find something which I consider an improvement. If you make this recipe and add an ingredient or flavour not listed here please do leave a message in the comments.
Spiced Braised Red Cabbage Casserole
2 lb/1 kg red cabbage
1 lb/450g cooking apples
1 lb/450g onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated
¼tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground cloves
1tsp juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
3tbsp brown sugar
3tbsp wine vinegar
Salt & freshly milled black pepper
3-4ozs/75-100g dried cranberries (optional)
6-8ozs/150-225g fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2.
2. Remove and throw away the tough outer cabbage leaves. Quarter it and making a ‘v’ shape remove and discard the tough stalk in each piece. Shred the rest of the cabbage finely, using a sharp knife.
3. Peel, core and chop the cooking apples in small pieces. Skin the onions and chop them small.
4. Layer the ingredients in a large ovenproof pot or casserole, alternating layers of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper with layers of chopped onions and apples with a little garlic, spices and sugar. Continue with the layers until all the ingredients are used up, apart from the vinegar and butter.
5. Pour over the wine vinegar and dot pieces of butter on top.
6. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven to cook slowy for 2 – 2½ hours. Stir the ingredients well twice during the cooking time.
7. Grate a little extra nutmeg over the top as it is served, if you wish.