My mother, who emigrated from Germany, has always served some of the best tasting food in the world. One of my favorites is pickled red cabbage. There are several variations, but my favorite is a very simple brine-based type. I grow red cabbage for one reason and one reason only: to make this fabulous, beautiful dish.
Now, I have to tell you that I tried to adapt the recipe a few times in order to eliminate the sugar component, and it was disasterous! The fermenting of the cabbage requires the sugar, so don’t leave it out. Also, for all of you who lack patience: You must let your jars of red cabbage sit for around three months before it will be ready to eat. Otherwise, you will be eating cooked cabage and pure vinegar! Since I pick my cabbage in small batches, I use a small batch recipe.
If you start canning now, you will have pickled red cabbage ready to serve or give in time for the holidays!!
Pickled Red Cabbage
Step One: Wash, remove the core, then chop or shred one large head of red cabbage. I prefer a large chop, since I like to eat it with a fork as a side dish. Place it in a large bowl and mix in 1/8 cup of pickling or kosher salt. Rub the salt into the leaves of the cabbage. You will notice that the cabbage will start to release liquid. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it stand for about 24 hours.
Step Two: Put the cabbage into a colander. Rinse the cabbage with water, then let it drain. You want most of the liquid to be dried off, so you can either let it sit in the colander for an hour or two, or you can use paper towel to press out as much water as possible. When mostly dried, the cabbage is ready to be pickled.
Step Three: Pack the prepared cabbage into your canning jars. Depending upon the size of your cabbage, you will need 2-3 quart or 4-6 pint jars. I suggest using the size of jar which will best accommodate your family for one meal. At this point in life, that is the pint-sized jar for me. Prepare your jars, like you usually do, and while the jars are still hot, tightly pack them with the prepared cabbage. Add 1/4 t. mustard seeds to pint jars or 1/2 t. to quart jars. Make sure you leave at least an one of head space, and set aside while you make the pickling brine.
Step Four: To make a brine, you will cook some vinegar with some spices. Some of the spices will flavor the vinegar mixture, but you don’t want them to be in your jars, so you will put them in a piece of cheesecloth or spice ball which will be lowered into the brine while it cooks. Here is the recipe:
- In a piece of cheesecloth combine the follow, then tie it with a piece of string:
- 1 T. whole Cloves
- 1 T. Peppercorns
- 1T. whole Allspice
- 1/4 t. Mace
- 1 T. Celery Seeds
- Cook 4 cups of white vinegar and and 1/2 c. brown sugar on medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, completely. Add the spice-filled cheesecloth and bring the mixture back up to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, then turn off the heat. Remove the spice bag. What is left is your brine!
Step Five: Pour your brine into each jar, remove air bubbles by sliding a flat knife down the sides, and adjust the brine until your brine barely covers the cabbage and is one inch from the rim of the jar. Cover the jars with your lids and rings, and you are ready to can!
Step Six: This is important: DO NOT PRESSURE CAN! Pressure canning your cabbage could results in mushy, discolored cabbage which your family might disown you for. I suggest using a water bath method. It’s quick and easy. Just put your jars into the prepared canner of hot water, and add boiling water to ensure that each jar is covered by about three inches of water. Cover the pot. Turn the heat on high. When the water comes to a boil, start timing: 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
Step Seven: Remove the jars from the canner. Put them on a towel-covered surface and let them cool without further touching them. As the jars cool, a vacuum will occur, and you will hear the lids ping and pop to indicate that they have properly sealed (It is like music to the ears of people who preserve their own food). When cool, place the jars in a cool, dry, somewhat dark place for a few months to let the cabbage ferment into a scrumptious, beautiful product. YUM! Happy Canning!