February 28, 2014

Quick-Pickled Red Cabbage

This is an easy, refreshing pickle to add colour and texture to a meal. It is not, however, a German recipe, despite a prodigious reliance on cabbage here in Germany; cabbage here tends mostly to be served as sauerkraut (fermented) or braised with apples, in my experience (such as was shown in my Hasenpfeffer post).

Rather, this recipe was inspired by some marinated cabbage that I had as part of a salad in a Croatian restaurant. Applying similar principles to those in the Mexican Pickled Red Onions from a couple of years ago. I did a quick search online, and found that Gluten Free Girl has a version as well which is also very similar.

Quick-Pickled Red Cabbage

Makes 4 cups

4 cups finely sliced red cabbage
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 very small piece of cinnamon stick or 1 star anise (optional)

Mason jar or other sealable glass or pottery vessel that can fit in your fridge (I used a tempered glass bowl that has a plastic lid)

Make sure that your vessel is spotlessly clean, and rinse well with boiling water to be sure.

Toss the cabbage with the coarse salt and let it sit in a colander to drain for a few hours. Make sure that there's a plate under the colander (or it is in over the sink) because purple juice will be rendered out during this time, and it stains like a sonofagun. Combine the remaining ingredients and bring them to a simmer in a non-reactive saucepan. Cover and let cool while the cabbage drains in the colander.

A few hours later, rinse the salt off of the cabbage, and pack it into the clean glass/pottery vessel. Strain the spices out of the vinegar mixture, and bring back to the boil. Pour the vinegar over the cabbage, covering the cabbage completely with liquid. If you need a bit more liquid, you can add a little more water at this point.

Cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature before covering tightly and storing in the fridge. Allow a day or two for the flavours to meld before eating. It makes a lovely, crunchy garnish to a dinner, or adds interest to a salad (use sparingly if adding it to a salad, or it will overwhelm everything else). I've also been known to eat a small bowl of it (as shown) as a snack, but that may just be me.

If you really dig a spiced flavour profile, you can leave the cinnamon/star anise and bay leaves in the vinegar, but you may want to remove the black peppercorns (or some of them) because they're not all that pleasant to bite on accidentally. If you leave the spices in the vinegar, the spices' flavours will continue to intensify as it sits in the fridge.

This keeps for a couple of weeks, up to about a month, stored covered in the fridge.

Because this dish is so super-crunchy, I think I might try a version where the cabbage has been blanched first, just to see what the effect is on the texture. My guess is that it will remain crisp and somewhat crunchy, but might have a gentler texture. I'll be sure to let you know.

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