It’s often said that we eat with our eyes. If that’s the case, wouldn’t this colorful Swedish Red Cabbage be welcome on any holiday table? The secret alchemy of turning raw “red” cabbage, which is really more or less purple, into this deep magenta is in slow caramelization, and the application of fresh lemon juice. Similar red cabbage dishes appear in the cuisines of most northern European countries, but it seems that the addition of cloves and allspice marks this as Swedish. As in so many dishes, the trick is to achieve that magical balance of salt, sweet and tart. In this recipe, I’ve offered you a range of sweet and tart quantities. In order to achieve the full magenta which you see in the photo, you’ll probably need to add more lemon juice, which means you’ll need to add a bit more salt and sweetener as well. For everyday meals, maybe go with the lesser amounts, but for a holiday, I’d go all out. You’ll create a dish which tastes as beautiful as it looks.
SWEDISH RED CABBAGE
This recipe should be made ahead, as it tastes maybe even better the next day.
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 apples, cored and diced (nearly any variety will be just fine)
1 medium/large red cabbage (2-2 1/2 pounds) quartered and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup apple juice (some traditional recipes call for red wine)
1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup or sweetener of choice
1-1 1/2 tablespoons ume plum vinegar, or to taste
juice of 1 or 2 lemons, or to taste
1. Heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven, add the apples and cook over medium heat, stirring, 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to wilt, 8-10 minutes.
3. Add the salt, cloves, allspice, apple juice, maple syrup, ume vinegar and the juice of one lemon. Stir well, then cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes. You want the cabbage to absorb all the liquid, caramelize and become sweet. Add a little water if it begins to dry out.
4. Check seasoning for correct balance of salt, sweet and tart. Add more salt, sweetener or lemon juice as needed (fresh lemon juice brings up the red color).
5. Make ahead and serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.