My German Grandma's Red Cabbage


My grandma is from Germany, which means that I am lucky enough to have been exposed to a second language when I was young, have grown up on fermented cabbages (Sauerkraut obsession finally explained.), and have an overwhelming appreciation of Oktoberfest and all its glory.

For example, did you know that Oktoberfest is held in September, not October? (Did you notice that this recipe is posted in September? Do you see what I did there?) Did you know that German beer is so robust because of the brewing process? How about that German food primarily uses pork for meats because the country doesn't have a lot of space for raising cattle? Now you know.


Ohhhh, and did you know that most Germans don't like peanut butter? They hate it! Once, I gave my grandma a peanut butter Twix, back in the day, and told her it was caramel because I thought it was hilarious. Looking back, perhaps that was a bit mean coming from my 6-year old self. Or genius?

Finally, did you know that Germans love their cabbage? Sauerkraut, of course, but cooked cabbage too? I know, it sounds gross, but I can promise you that if cooked properly, cabbage is delicious. It is also extremely important that we all get sulfurous veggies like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli into our daily diet, since they have a lot of nutrients that aren't found elsewhere. Have you all heard of the Wahls Protocol? If not, you need to go read about it ASAP.

This red cabbage is my absolute favorite. I like it so much, that when I was in college and grad school, my grandma would make a huge batch, freeze it, and then I would carry it onto the plane with me. I can't tell you how many strange questions I have gotten going through security from TSA, but it is totally worth it.

This recipe I am posting here on South of Vanilla is straight from my grandma. She doesn't even remember how she came about this recipe, and couldn’t even tell me exact measurements what I asked. In all likelihood, it has been passed down from generation to generation, and now it is being given to you, so I hope you make it this Oktoberfest.

Some cook’s notes:

  • This dish takes veryyyy long time to cook, since it needs to cook over low heat on a stovetop. If you want this to cook while you are not home, I recommend using a slow cooker, and following your manufacturer’s instructions.
  • I prefer Fuji apples, although it is definitely ok to use whatever you have on hand.
  • This recipe makes a lot, so feel free to half. (Although it is very, very hard to find half a head of red cabbage in grocery stores.) Alternatively, it freezes extraordinarily well.
  • For those of you who are into wine and beer food pairings, my friend Dani over at Care to Pair wrote a killer post on a wine pairing with red cabbage and smothered onion brats. Geeeniuuuus.

my german grandma’s red cabbage

Serves 10, as a side

  • 1 medium head of red cabbage
  • 3 slices of uncooked bacon
  • 1 apple
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • Lemon and lettuce to garnish (optional)
  1. Roughly slice bacon into thirds, core apple and cut into quarters, and slice the cabbage into eights.
  2. Place bacon, apple, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar in a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. (See note above about slow cookers.)
  3. Fill the pot with water until just covering the cabbage.
  4. Bring pot to a boil, and then reduce to low-medium heat. Let cook until cabbage has completely broken down, about 6-7 hours.
  5. Season with salt, to taste and enjoy immediately, or freeze for an easy veggie. (See note above)