January 4, 2011

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Cabbage is a delicious winter vegetable. Each year I grow four green and four red cabbages and store them in the root cellar, where they will keep until spring. During the cold months I make cabbage soups (see recipe here), cabbage with pasta (click here for recipe), smothered cabbage, stuffed cabbage, cole slaw....the list goes on. One of my favorite dishes is from Deborah Madison's marvelous Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage. Madison's version is a spicy variation on a traditional recipe. It is a quick and simple and delicious dish.

1 1/2 pounds red cabbage
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 cloves
1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 small bay leaves
1 Tablespoon brown sugar or molasses
salt and pepper1/4 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/2 cup water or juice from tomatoes
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  1. Remove the core from the cabbage and slice crosswise into 1/2 inch strips.
  2. Grind spices or bruise them in a mortar. I do something more simple, which is use ground spices instead. I use scant amounts of each spice because I don't like the dish intensely spiced.
  3. Heat the oil in a wide skillet with the onion, spices and bay leaves; cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the sugar or molasses and cook an additional minute.
  4. Lay the cabbage over the onion, add a teaspoon of salt, spoon the tomatoes over, and then the water or tomato juice. Cover and cook gently, until the cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, toss everything together, and add the vinegar. Raise the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and everything is covered with a syrupy glaze.
  6. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and serve.
about 4 servings


  1. Yum!
    Saving this recipe for next time I cook a red cabbage.

  2. I hope you enjoy this, wetoilpaint; it's one of the dishes I look forward to each year.

  3. When I saw your photo, the deep purple of the cabbage took me back to my step mother's wonderful borscht recipe. I look forward to trying my hand at this dish when I return. The allspice berries and coriander seeds sound like something out of a book of medieval cookery!

  4. I love that this recipe brought back memories. You can use ground spices instead of whole, which is what I do. Growing up with middle eastern cooking, we used lots of allspice and whole coriander seed to make the savory biscuit called Kaak.