When I received my mission call for Berlin, Germany back in late 2003, I knew from that time forward that rotkohl ("red cabbage"), brats, and sauerkraut, among other things, would become part of my normal diet for a long time.
Much to my pleasure, I embraced rotkohl whole-heatedly and sincerely from the first time it tickled my taste buds. It's easily likable and a perfect, quintessential German side dish that pairs well with traditional Rouladen (a thinly sliced, rolled-up meat filled with goodies), Kloese (potato balls), Kartoffelen (potatoes), and like I said, sauerkraut (pickled, sour cabbage). Even if you've never set foot in Germany, the first time you eat it will make you feel as if you're sitting in old town Dresden or somewhere in Bavaria under the Alps.
I remember going through a very strange phase during my mission of drenching my precious rotkohl in ketchup. I think it sent nearly every native German that saw me do this into cardiac arrest by this unruly, disgraceful American behavior. Grossed out by it today, I love to eat rotkohl minus the ketchup, but with fabulous missionary memories storming my brain with each spoonful.
It's a really, quite easy dish to make. Jarred rotkohl is available in most major grocery stores and is actually really good too, should you want to give it a first-time whirl. But if you want to be medium-ambitious, try making it yourself; the pot and stove top does most the work anyways. Some recipes of rotkohl call for Speck, or in English, bacon-- just tiny bits of it, which you can certainly add if you wish. I prefer it Speck free.
Okay, auf wiedersehen!
1 red cabbage, washed, and cut into thin shards and slices
2 apples, chopped into small dices (Granny Smith work well)
~ 3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (or a tad more)
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of cloves
Splash of cider vinegar
In a large pot over medium high, heat up the butter. Add the shredded cabbage and apples, stirring often. Add 1 cup or so of water and bring everything to a boil. Add brown sugar, salt, a little pepper, cloves, vinegar, and put lid on top. Simmer until very soft (may take up to 1 hour), adding a little water as needed (you don't want it to be runny, only enough water to keep it from sticking the bottom of the pan). Adjust seasonings as needed- making sure there's enough salt so it's flavorful (Rotkohl should be somewhat sweet and slightly tangy). Remove from heat and serve warm.