German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (2024)


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Or Nana or Farmor or Babushka or Bubbie. Red Cabbage is a classic winter side dish for anyone with even a tiny bit of European heritage. Shredded and cooked with apples, sugar and vinegar - a sweet and tart European style red cabbage recipe.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (1)

Rotkohl - otherwise known as German red cabbage is THE reason I grow red cabbages. I hand a couple of them over to my sister Fish Pedicure to make for our family's Thanksgiving dinner and then I turn another one or two into my own red cabbage to eat throughout the year. (it freezes really well) I have never, however, grown a cabbage I would consider award winning.

It takes a certain kind of someone to want to grow the world's largest anything. Potato, Leek, Carrot, Zucchini ... It was in 2016 that the 90 year old record for the World's Largest Red Cabbage was broken by David Thomas who grew a 51.1 pound red cabbage.

It beat out the long standing record of a comparably pathetic 42 pound cabbage, also grown by a man. As it turns out, most of the people who want to grow absurdly large vegetables are men. I think we all know why.

If you search the Internet you'll find a photo of David, a resident of Cornwall, England, proudly lounging languidly behind his cabbage, his face and left shoulder the only parts of his body that are visible.

I'm sure this saucy little image is considered quite sexy within the big vegetable crowd. Need more incentive to spend 4 months growing a big potato? It's common knowledge that the only profession searched more often than lawyer on is Competitive Vegetable Grower.

My own father used to search out the biggest of everything in the grocery store. Instead of coming home with a bag of beets he'd come home with one beet that was so big it needed to be buckled into the back seat like a sleepy, red-faced toddler.

Today's recipe for classic German Red Cabbage came from my very own homegrown red cabbage. My own very small, non award winning, Guinness Book of World Record losing, red cabbage.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (2)

What is it?

Anyone with a bit of European background has probably had a scoop of red cabbage brighten up their dinner plate during the holidays.

It's a mixture of fresh red cabbage, sugar, vinegar and apples. The perfect combination of sweet and sour. In Germany it's Rotkohl, in Denmark Rødkål and in Swedish rödkål. Same name, same deliciousness.

Can you freeze cabbage?

Yes, you can freeze cooked cabbage perfectly. Cabbage, cooked or uncooked, freezes very well. It will get softer as anything does once you freeze it, but it doesn't become watery or gross.

In fact, when I make cabbage rolls, instead of boiling the cabbages, I stick the whole cabbages in the freezer for several days. The freezing softens the cabbage leaves enough that they're as pliable as if you had boiled them.

And in the case of cooked cabbage, like this shredded side dish - it freezes perfectly too.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (3)

All it takes is one or two (normal sized) cabbages, some vinegar and sugar and about 1 hour. I use a knife to slice the cabbage thinly to shred it. Honestly? It's easier than dragging out and cleaning a food processor.

But if you want to use a food processor, just fit it with the shredder attachment and shred away.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (4)

You can add apples too. I like apples. If I have apples from my espalier trees that are damaged or or soft this is where I use them.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (5)

Shred the cabbage with a knife, slice the apples, chop an onion and you're almost done. Don't forget the bay leaf. The ingredients are simmered for about 40 minutes (until the cabbage is tender) and that's all there is to it.

I use red wine vinegar but you can honestly use any vinegar: apple cider vinegar, regular vinegar, rice vinegar ...

I make a batch every fall, put it in individual sized containers and stack them in the freezer (because my freezer is perfectly organized and yours can be too.) Don't envy my organized-freezer-of-a-life because I have a basem*nt I'm afraid to enter for all manner of reasons.

What to pair it with

Red cabbage goes well with pretty much everything but I especially like it with roast chicken, turkey or anything pork. Not a giant pork. Just you know, regular sized pork. I don't eat a lot of game, but if you do it would be perfect with venison or duck as well.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (6)


Quick Red Cabbage Coleslaw recipe

You can reserve some of the red cabbage and turn it into a super-quick coleslaw by shoving some into a jar with a 2:1 solution of sugar to vinegar. Let it steep for at least an hour. I like to add a sprinkling of celery seed as well. (so use ¼ cup sugar and ⅛ cup vinegar for example)

German Red Cabbage Recipe

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (7)

Classic Red Cabbage

Classic Sweet & Tart Red Cabbage recipe. Sugar to taste.

4.26 from 39 votes

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Course: Canning/Preserves

Author: The Art of Doing Stuff


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 apples
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 regular sized red cabbage shredded (enough to make 8 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • cup + 2 Tablespoons white sugar less if you want it less sweet
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf


  • Prep your ingredients so they're ready to go.

  • In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter.

  • Add in the sliced apples and onion, cooking until soft.

  • Add remaining ingredients and heat to boiling.

  • Cover and simmer 40 minutes.

  • Discard bay leaf and transfer to serving bowl or individual containers for freezing.


*I often taste the cabbage near the end and decide whether I want to add a couple of more tablespoons of sugar.

I don't think I'll be growing a giant, fair worthy vegetable anytime soon, but I do think that if I were to ever join, before I lied about my height, weight, age or education, I'd lie about being a wildly successful competitive vegetable grower.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (8)

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma used to make. (2024)
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