German red cabbage salad is commonly known in Germany by a handful of different names depending on the region (e.g., “rotkohl”, “rotkraut”, “blaukohl”, or “blaukraut” ), and has been a popular German staple for centuries. The use of red cabbage became popular in Germany because it was easily cultivated in cooler, Northern climates and was therefore plentiful, inexpensive, and nutritious.
The sweet and sour side dish was once very common amongst peasants but frowned upon by the rich. The rich once were suspicious of many fruits and vegetables, believing that certain varietals were the cause of such diseases as the plague, and should be avoided at all costs. Red cabbage salad was also very popular amongst explorers and sailors. In the 17th and 18th centuries, explorers often carried cabbage in their ship’s stores for crew members to eat. One serving of red cabbage has over half a day’s worth of Vitamin C, and during this time, cabbage was thought to fight off scurvy and to keep sailors in good health during long voyages.
Now-a-days, you can find German red cabbage salad by one of its many names (see above) at any restaurant or home across Germany. The tasty side dish is traditionally prepared with red currant jam, cloves, juniper berries, vinegar and apples. It is typically served with roasts, rouladen (i.e., beef roll-ups stuffed with pickles and onions), sauerbraten (i.e., pickled roast meat), and roast goose, alongside mashed potatoes.
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cups shredded red cabbage
1 granny smith apple, sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
Put butter in a large pot and melt over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they start to brown (approximately 7 minutes). Add cabbage and apples to the pot.
In another bowl, mix the vinegar, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, and cloves together. Pour the mixture over cabbage and apples. Add the bay leaf to the pot.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, until the cabbage is tender (approximately 1.5-2 hours). Stir occasionally.