Braised red cabbage with cherries, ginger and pear
Braised red cabbage recalls my German roots, and my days as an apprentice to Swiss chef Xavier Bauser at the Benson Hotel. It was usually served there with pork schnitzel and spaetzle, as in any good Swiss kitchen.
When winter arrives, I crave this sweet and sour version with honey, red wine vinegar, dried cherries or raisins, and fresh pear or apple, finished with a little bit of grated fresh ginger. The butter is optional, if this recipe works for your holiday line up and you have a vegan or two sharing your table. Cooking it covered, and the addition of an acid (in the form of vinegar), help the cabbage retain its reddish purple color, a pigment belonging to anthocyanins, or water-soluble pigments.
I tested this recipe by braising the cabbage covered, for 30 minutes, to leave a little crunch. If you prefer a silky, soft, juicy texture, the cabbage can cook for an hour, as long as you add more water as needed, to prevent the cabbage from drying out. I use water and test the cabbage as it cooks, as some cabbages excrete more water than others. If you prefer a sweeter braised cabbage, use apple cider instead.
Makes 4 servings
1 medium-size red cabbage, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sweet vinegar such as vermouth, Riesling, Muscatel or balsamic
2 cups water
Juice and zest of one orange
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup dried cherries or preferred dried fruit
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pear or apple, peeled, cored, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Put the cabbage, shallots, vinegar, water, orange juice and zest, honey and dried cherries in a deep, non-reactive saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Season with salt and cover. Bring the liquid to a simmer over low heat and cook for 25 minutes, stirring and checking to be sure the pan doesn't get dry.
Add the pear, ginger and butter, stir gently and adjust the seasoning adding freshly ground black pepper and more salt as needed. Let the cabbage simmer, covered, 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.