Everyone has a favorite “grandma” dish at the holidays and Braised Red Cabbage is one of mine. It brings back so many memories of my grandmother’s kitchen and all the Christmas family dinners held at her home.
As a kid I thought Grandma Esther had the best kitchen in the world. Her Roper stove was captivating with buttons and gadgets that made it a mid-century wonder. This work horse had more chrome, and culinary miles than her beloved vintage lime green Coupe Deville in the garage. And the perfect partner to that stove? Her well seasoned cast iron skillet. All I knew back then was whatever went into that skillet was touched by magic and became the perfect illusion of flavor. And yes, I still believe in cast iron skillet magic today and use one whenever the opportunity arises.
As a child I was Grandma Esther’s sous- chef when it came to Braised Red Cabbage. Our initial step was to go to the local market, head straight to the produce area to pick out the cabbage that had the deepest color and firmest tight leaves. Then we selected three perfect Jonathan apples. Next, off to the butcher department for 8 slices of thickly sliced bacon. And finally, Grandma would slip a box Cracker Jack into the cart for a treat when everything was done.
When we arrived home the process began, slowing sautéing the bacon, and cutting the red cabbage. I always peeled and cut the apples for this dish and. . .tasted the sweet-sour combination of flavors to make sure it was just right. Like many families, we had special bowls for certain dishes. For generations, the red cabbage was always served in a Grandma’s Dutch Chinese Transfer bowl. The perfect, colorful cradle for this sweet and savory holiday dish.
Braised Red Cabbage
1 large head red cabbage, cored, cut into ¼ inch slices, washed and drained well
8 slices of thick-cut bacon, sliced into ¼ inch by ½ strips, cooked and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 Jonathan apples peeled and cut into small, 1/2 inch square pieces
Using a very large, cast iron or heavy frying pan sauté the bacon until its light golden brown and lightly crisp. Remove from the frying pan and drain on paper towels. Drain off all but three tablespoons of drippings. Add olive oil to the bacon drippings and sauté onions until translucent. Over medium heat add the sliced red cabbage, white wine, vinegar and all other ingredients. Slowly stir the cabbage and cook for 15 minutes. Add the diced bacon and diced apples. Adjust the seasonings as you wish, I like mine more on the tart side. This dish is great to make ahead the day before and reheat.