Polish Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage (Czerwona Kapusta Zasmażana)

Braised Red Cabbage
Brian Yarvin / Getty Images
Ratings (28)
  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
149 Calories
5g Fat
26g Carbs
3g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Polish sweet-and-sour braised red cabbage, known as czerwona kapusta zasmażana (cherr-VOH-nah kah-POOSS-tah zahs-mah-ZHAH-nah), is a side dish that comes together in a snap, especially if you use a food processor to shred the cabbage and onion.  

Red cabbage is sweeter than green or white cabbage and retains its brilliant color even after it's cooked. It's available year-round and usually is an inexpensive buy. It goes great with just about any dish but is a favorite with ham, pork, and sausage

Braising is a great way to cook cabbage. This technique is a moist-heat cooking method that involves browning meats or vegetables in fat and then cooking them in a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pot over low heat on the stovetop or in the oven for a long time. Low and slow are the watchwords.

Braising adds flavor and breaks down tough fibers, so it's the perfect way to cook tough cuts of meat (with a lot of connective tissue) and fibrous vegetables like cabbage, celery, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, Belgian endive, and others.

In this case, the cabbage is meant to retain some of its crispness, so it breaks the rule of a long, slow cook and requires 15 minutes of cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) head red cabbage (washed, dried, cored, and shredded)
  • 1 medium onion (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or canola oil)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook cabbage and onion in butter or oil on medium heat until it collapses, about 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together water, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Add to cabbage mixture, combining well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover tightly.

  3. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender but still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate overnight to improve flavor. This dish freezes well for up to six months.

Variations

While these variations are not strictly Polish, they are delicious.

  • For German flair, replace the butter or oil with chopped bacon, replace some of the sugar with apple juice and a sliced apple, use dry red wine in place of red-wine vinegar, and add some cloves.

  • For zing, add 1 teaspoon of freshly crushed mustard seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (crushed or left whole) and, to set it and forget it, use a slow cooker.

  • Use green cabbage in place of red cabbage and apricot jam in place of the brown sugar.

As long as you're braising some vegetables and the oven is on (if you choose to go that route), why not braise a pot roast, lamb or veal shanks, bone-in chicken parts, beef short ribs, oxtails, or pork shoulder in a separate Dutch oven. Any one of these would be delicious with braised red cabbage.