Spiced Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon and Apples

red cabbage

First, a big congratulations to our randomly selected Holiday Hostess Giveaway winner, Kathy S! Kathy’s stocking will be stuffed with goodies from the Cos Bar (thank you!) and my new hemp halter apron. Thank you for all the lovely and heartfelt comments on what has brought you joy this year. Your reflections made my holiday brighter.

red cabbage

It’s been a rough road for our garden veggies this fall. I keep checking on the cabbage and broccoli thinking maybe some little head is hiding in there? I continue to poke around, but nothing, except lots and lots of leaves. My hope was to harvest cabbage right about now and offer up a pretty “from garden to table” recipe just in time for Christmas.


Gardens remind you who’s in control. Hint, it’s not the gardener. Lucky for me, our Santa Barbara farmers market has a bounty of beautiful brassicas to make up for my sad showing. I’ll go with gratitude for this ”farmers market stall to table” recipe, crossing my fingers that things shape up in my garden, soon.


Isn’t red cabbage the most perfect side for a holiday dinner table? This dish is easy to make, delicious and that magenta color is gorgeous.  My mom and I just made a version of this cabbage for Thanksgiving. As far back as I can remember she always made red cabbage for our Thanksgiving table. Back then, I acknowledged this nod to her Belgian heritage with a turned up nose and direct grab for the stuffing.

red cabbage

Now, I love it! The tang from the vinegar, the sweetness from the apples and a little heat from the chilies — damn, it’s delicious. The clove, bacon and apple seem to melt into the cabbage as it simmers. With a simple roast pork or brisket this makes a winning side dish because it brightens up the mellowness of the meat. Enjoy this “farmers market stall to table” recipe while I hope for some garden goodness in the new year.

red cabbage

red cabbage

red cabbage

red cabbage

Spiced Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon and Apples

Spiced Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon and Apples

Serves six

Note: Two little tips for keeping the cabbage colorful and bright. One is to add a little vinegar during the cooking process and the other is to use a non-reactive pan. Carbon steel, aluminum and cast iron are no bueno here and will change the color of the cabbage, making it dull.


3 slices bacon, sliced in half

1 small red cabbage, shredded (total of about 8 cups)

2 cups water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons red currant jam or jelly

1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I like Pink Lady or Granny Smith)

4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, divided

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 chile de arbol

2 bay leaves

4 cloves (whole)


Shred the cabbage: Slice the head of the cabbage in quarters and cut the core from each segment. Next, slice each of those quarters in half making eight segments total. Then, thinly slice the wedges perpendicular to the original cut mark so you have a nice even shred. You can use a food processor or a box grater to shred the cabbage, but I prefer a natural cut – it keeps the cabbage from getting too mushy as it cooks.

In a non-reactive Dutch oven lay the bacon slices, followed by the apples and the cabbage. Mix two cups of water with brown sugar, currant jelly and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Pour over the cabbage. Next, add the bay leaves, cloves and the chile de arbol – breaking them in half. I just fish these items out at the end, but you can wrap them in cheesecloth and submerge them into the cabbage for easy retrieval after cooking is complete.

Bring the cabbage to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Partially cover and cook for two hours. Check on it periodically to stir and to make sure there is enough liquid, add water  as needed. If the pan gets too dry your cabbage will burn. At about 2 hours check for seasoning and add the remaining apple cider vinegar and cook for about thirty minutes more. Serve warm or room temperature.