Day 63: Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples ♥

Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples
Red cabbage softly cooked with tart apples, adding such welcome color and texture to a plate.

~recipe & photo updated 2008 & 2010~

2005: Couldn't get enough of this tonight! It's another winter-ish dish. But then again, served at room temperature or cold, Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples is perfect for summer, especially as a side to fish or grilled sausage, I think. And the color is fabulous. The recipe says it's a traditional Christmas dish in Sweden. It would definitely brighten a plate! and also be easy to make ahead of time.

Helsinki, Finland is perched on the Baltic Sea. When I was a student there, the favorite school lunch was batter-fried fish with mashed potatoes and a warm cabbage slaw, a sumptuous combination. Everyone took large helpings and many went back for seconds! This cabbage reminds me of those lunch-time luxuries.

Making it does take awhile, nothing complicated, just takes time - make sure your favorite knife is sharp! But the good news is that it makes a bunch and that it keeps - perhaps improves - in the fridge.

2008: This recipe has become one of my very favorites from A Veggie Venture. Two years in a row, now, I've served it with Finnish Meatballs for our supper on Christmas Eve. It can be made a day or so ahead and then just easily and quickly reheats. The apples make it slightly sweet and the butter mellows both the cabbage and apples. This is a complete winner!

"This reminds me of the red cabbage we had as part of a traditional Danish Christmas Eve supper-your recipe is terrific, Alanna!" ~ Kirsten
"... this recipe is one of the most popular in my kitchen" ~ Stephen


Hands-on time: 25 minutes plus regular attention throughout
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 10 cups

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (the inspiring recipe called for 4 tablespoons but I also drop it back to just 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil)
4 Granny Smith apples (or some times just two apples)
2 large onions, chopped
1 red cabbage (start with a generous 2 pounds before trimming)

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (yes, tablespoon) kosher salt (this seems like a lot of salt but seems to be what's needed)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoon tart jelly such as red currant or hot pepper (see TIPS)
Salt & pepper

Place the butter in a Dutch oven but do not turn heat on yet. Peel and chop the apples; about halfway through, turn heat to MEDIUM to melt butter (see TIPS). Add apples and stir to coat with butter, then stir occasionally. Chop onions and add, continuing to stir occasionally. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in half vertically, cut out the tough inner core, then chop roughly. Stir in cabbage and cook until slightly wilted, about 8 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, vinegar, salt and spices in a small dish. Stir well into the cabbage. COVER and cook until the cabbage is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in add red wine and jelly and cook 5 minutes, UNCOVERED. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

2005: The tart jelly is a 'defining ingredient' that may be worth going out of your way for. I bypassed the sweet jams/jellies on hand in the frig to use a chokecherry syrup -- and afterward wished I'd bought the currant jelly. That said, another way to get the effect might be to add a few red pepper flakes. 2008: Currant jelly is quite perfect, so would be a jalapeno jelly, anything with a bit of bite. 2010: Once again, I tried to substitute something else for the tart jelly, this time white pepper. The currant jelly is just so perfect, next time I'll make sure to use it.
2005: Texture is important to this dish. What you don't want is overcooked mush. Since the apples are added first, they cook the longest. To briefly delay their cooking, I think, keeps the apple pieces distinct from the cabbage and onion. 2008: Texture is important. But I like both the 'distinct pieces' on the first day and the 'mellowed flavors' on the second. Picking a favorite would be hard!
2009: I made this without apples, it was just as good!
I choose to chop the cabbage by hand but a food processor would be fine, though the cooking times would likely be shorter. The objective is to end up with fully cooked, soft cabbage that retains a bit of crunch.

A Veggie Venture - Printer Friendly Recipe Graphic

~ Cape Breton Cabbage ~
from the Canadian Maritimes
~ Potato, Cabbage & Rapini Colcannon ~
a traditional Irish dish
~ Smothered Cabbage ~
an Italian specialty
~ more cabbage recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Caraway Cabbage ~
another recipe from Scandinavia
~ Grilled Vegetables in Foil ~
~ Alice Waters' Coleslaw ~
~ more cabbage recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. This reminds me of the red cabbage we had as part of a traditional Danish Christmas Eve supper-your recipe is terrific, Alanna! My brother's recipe? Go to the store, get a jar of red cabbage, heat and serve. Though to their credit, he and his wife made the tastiest pork with crispy salty skin.

    I didn't have any ground cloves, so I substituted 6 whole cloves. At least I picked 6 whole cloves out at the end of the cooking time ;)!

    I also threw in a dash of caraway seeds because it seemed like a good addition.

    I substituted Gala apples for half of the Granny Smiths.

    Finally, I had the opportunity to use my own homemade cranberry hot pepper jelly. I thought I'd given away all the jars but found one at the back of the pantry. Wahoo!

    I enjoyed this dish warm and cold for several meals. Thanks!

  2. I want to tell you that this recipe is one of the most popular in my kitchen...I got my version from a Time-Life Cooking series book (on Scandanavian cuisine) that my former wife had from the 60' some point I found that it could be made in a microwave...usually 15 minutes at full power works...
    best, Stephen

  3. What a great recipe! I grew up on sweet and sour red cabbage. My grandmother was Swedish. She made this with diced bacon, using the bacon grease instead of butter. I've never heard of using jelly, but wow that sound good. We always topped our cabbage with a dollop of sour cream. Try that next time it's really yummy.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna