Jane Forgiel is my Mom’s mom, my grandmother. She grew up in Maryland, met my grandfather, a young doctor, while working as a nurse, and moved with him to Rhode Island, where she raised seven children. Unlike the Polish recipes of my other three grandparents, the dishes Gram was best known for had a context best described as Americana. They were, however, no less integral to my growing up.
Fall was marked by the arrival of Gram’s apple crisp and Indian pudding hot from the oven. Thanksgiving and Christmas are incomplete without Gram’s stuffing, just as summer holidays require a baked ham and baked beans. If there is one dish that truly transcends family memory, though, it’s Gram’s braised red cabbage.
In the fall of 2007, my future husband and our roommates decided to throw an Oktoberfest party. Between Heather and Mike, the sausages and pretzels, imported mustards and homemade German potato salad, we were covered. I could, I offered, make some red cabbage.
I called Mom for the recipe, shredded a head or three of cabbage, cooked it until tender with red onions, cider and cloves, and placed it in a foil pan on the buffet. That’s when it happened.
People began to approach me, first one, then another, then a couple: “This is delicious!” they exclaimed. “The best braised cabbage I’ve ever had.” Of course it’s delicious, I thought, that’s why I made it, but the best? I had no other point of reference.
In the end, I figured, if Gram already got it right, why mess with perfection. So here’s her recipe, simple and delicious. If you would, give Jane a little mental high-five when you make it. And enjoy!
Cider-braised Red Cabbage
Serves 6 – 8
Gram probably didn’t have star anise and cardamom pods in her pantry, but I bet today she would. She seemed cool like that. If you want to, count the whole spices as you put them in so you can pull them out later. Otherwise, just warn your diners.
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 medium sweet/tart apple
- 1 star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods or 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups apple cider
- Warm olive oil in a 4 quart soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, 3-5 minutes.
- Add apple and spices and cook 2-3 minutes longer.
- Add cabbage and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften.
- Add 1 1/2 cups cider along with cider vinegar, and cover, simmering until cabbage is soft. 10-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes. If pan is getting dry, add remaining cider.
- Remove lid and cook until most of the cider has evaporated.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional cider vinegar as needed.