Red Cabbage with apple and Christmasy options

“The food is possibly not the smartest choice for a day when my legs are sticking to the furniture: the charms of confit duck leg with braised red cabbage and apple and fig compote, and honey and pomegranate-glazed golonka (oh, hello, it’s that pork knuckle). Well, they’re a bit Christmassy.”

Marina O’Loughlin, The Guardian, August 2015

We used to spend a lot of time in Hamburg and one of the many upsides were the jars of red cabbage we could get at our local supermarket. These could travel everywhere with us and wherever we went they packed a punch in a delirious and glorious way. Although in jars it was better than any other red cabbage I’d tried and the secret was the addition of apple.

As Marina O’Loughlin comments in the quote at the top of this page though, red cabbage, especially with its apple addition and the stars (the star anise), is a dish for winter, and especially for Christmas. And you can spice it up even further to make it positively tinselly by using mulled wine and cranberry jelly with silver sparkle! If you can’t find cranberry jelly with silver sparkle, you can buy edible silver sparkle on Amazon – just make sure you don’t get anything sugary.

You may be tempted to make double quantities of this as it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and it heats up well (add a little more butter and cranberry jelly when you do this).

Although not the traditional way of cooking red cabbage, the Chief Taster was won round. “Red cabbage should always be cooked for at least four hours,” was his astonished comment, “but this is extraordinarily good – you can definitely do this one again!”.

It goes well, of course, with ham, frankfurters or gammon. But it also goes well, as Marina O’Loughlin discovered when dining at the Polish restaurant, Ognisko, with confit duck leg and apple and fig compote. Rather surprisingly it also goes well with chicken.

For more recipes for red cabbage, follow this link.

To find out more about star anise, follow this link.

Recipe for Christmasy, Starry, Red Cabbage

Serves 6


  • 1 medium head of red cabbage (approximately 925g/2 lbs)
  • 150g/5 oz butter
  • 1 onion
  • 3 star anise
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half if long
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly (at Christmas, I go over the top and use redcurrant jelly with silver flakes in it….it matches the tinsel!) optional
  • 60g/⅓ cup soft brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 160 ml/⅔ cups good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 160 ml/⅔ cups red vermouth, port, or mulled wine (buy ready made); or you can use a mixture
  • 65g/3 oz/⅓ cup dried fruit – raisins or dried sour cherries for example
  • 1 apple


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Melt most of the butter in a large saucepan which has a lid.
  3. Peel and chop the onion and add to the pan – keep the heat gentle.
  4. Discard any outer, damaged, leaves of the cabbage, cut out the core, and shred (I do this manually by cutting thinly with a long, sharp knife). Add the cabbage to the saucepan.
  5. Add the salt, and stir well. Add the cinnamon and star anise. Keep stirring
  6. Add half the fortified wine and the balsamic vinegar. Stir well.
  7. Add the honey or sugar. Stir again. Add the dried fruit. Cover and simmer (use the simmering oven if you have an Aga) for about an hour.
  8. Meanwhile, core and chop the apple into chunks (no need to peel). Add it to the cabbage when you take it out of the oven. Add the rest of the fortified wine. Leave the lid off, and simmer on the hob for about another hour to get the liquid syrupy.
  9. Just before serving add the rest of the butter and the redcurrant jelly to give the cabbage a sparkly gloss. Prior to eating you might want to warn your guests that they might encounter the odd stick of cinnamon, or a woody star anise.
christmasy red cabbage recipe
Cranberry jelly with silver flakes floating scintillatingly within

Music to cook to

B&B Project plays Interstellar Theme

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