I used to have a Belgian Grandma named Elza who played a lot of solitaire.
(On the other side of the family – no relation to my (only) Grandad.)
Unfortunately I have no memory of her cooking. I have somewhere a three-page hand-written receipt on foolscap for Carbonnade of Beef, and I know she used to make braised red cabbage, but having lived the last of her years in the southern states and not wanting to fly, I don’t think she ever made it for me. I never got her recipe. Then again, I have no idea if it was any good.
My pal Sue is now the authority on braised red cabbage in my world. She makes it with Okanagan cherries she dries herself every year, but not completely – she leaves some moisture in them, so that they’re a little bit squishy and juicy, like a raisin that has been plumped in booze. Because they aren’t completely dry, they need to be frozen. It was the discovery (most likely by force of gravity) of a small baggie of said cherries in my freezer (and half a ginormous red cabbage in my fridge) that prompted me to make a batch. It’s one of those things – like beef bourguignon – that’s ever so satisfying to simmer in a cast iron pot over the course of an afternoon.
And its bright purpleness and tang somehow brightens up those bleak midwinter veggie blahs.
Braised Red Cabbage & Cherries
adapted from Sheila Lukins’ All Around the World Cookbook
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Set a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and heat the butter until it melts. When the foaming subsides, add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat until warmed through, then put the lid on and pop it into the oven for an hour or two – closer to two. The cabbage will be cooked through, and the liquid thickened a bit. Taste and add a little more honey and/or vinegar as you like to suit your taste (or apple juice if it needs a bit more liquid) and bake a little longer or simmer on the stovetop with the lid off if you want to cook it down a bit.
It’s better after a day or two in the fridge; serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until you’re ready for it. Serves 6-10.