Oma’s Spiced Red Cabbage
Greetings from hot Arizona! I’ll be honest, I’d rather be sitting by the pool than cooking in the kitchen this week. It’s 107F, without turning on the stove and oven. Luckily, my father has a pool at his home. We’re doing a lot of grilling, including throwing some bratwurst on the “barbie.” This was per the request of the birthday girl, which brings me to the reason why we are visiting Arizona in August … Oma is turning 105! Everyone always asks me, “what’s her secret?” I’m not sure I know the answer. But whatever it is, I’m grateful that she’s still going strong. So, even with the heat, it was impossible for me to pass on this opportunity to get into the kitchen and do some cooking with her.
My grandmother tends to cook a lot of traditional German food. One of my favorite dishes she makes is rotkraut aka spiced red cabbage. The red cabbage is simmered in red wine with bit of sugar, vinegar, and spices. She typically makes it during the holiday season, to serve with pork roast. But I think it also goes really well with grilled pork chops, and, as a topping for bratwurst.
So here we are, hanging out by the stove instead of the pool. I’m feverishly taking notes, because grandmothers never seem to write down recipes or measure ingredients. This is more than a cooking lesson. It’s a trip down memory lane. She’s telling me stories of her childhood in Germany and her country during WWII. When she was a girl, she apparently owned a cow named, Strohkhula (apparently a traditional German cow name). During the war, forget milk, she scarcely had a slice of bread to feed my father. She walked for eight months, and stared down the barrel of a Nazi gun, to get to the American occupied section of Germany. Once there, she got a job working for the US government. To make some extra money, she rerolled half-smoked cigarettes and sold them on the black market.
She certainly has lived a full and daring life! I’m lucky to be here with her in this moment, sharing a drink and cooking, while Talya plays happily at our feet.
Happy Birthday, Oma!
1 head red cabbage (about 2 pounds), halved, cored and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Fuji apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon juniper berries
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup red wine, preferably Burgundy
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, finely chop the onion. Pour the oil and butter into a pot and transfer the onion into the pot. Next, finely chop the cabbage in the food processor. Add it into the pot. Next, peel the apple and finely chop it in the food processor. Add it to the pot with the cabbage.
Sprinkle the salt, sugar, bay leaf and juniper berries. Very gently stir just to combine. Turn the heat on low and cook for one and a half hours on very low heat.
Stir the mixture. Add the vinegar and red wine. Increase the heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes, until the cabbage is very soft and fragrant.
Remove from the heat, stir in the pepper. Allow to cool slightly. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
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