Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Since green cabbage recipes are already well represented in Irish cuisine, and we already shared one in a previous post, I wanted to highlight one that is less well known – Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage. This brought back memories of eating a very similar dish back in my childhood, called “Rotkohl.”  Both my mother and grandmother would prepare this particular dish during the colder months of the year, usually served with potatoes and/or a small serving of meat.  Admittedly, as a child, this was not one of my favorite recipes, but as an adult, I rediscovered the benefits of cabbage in the form of coleslaw and even the sweet and sour variety of today’s recipe.

I have found that food culture does not so much set us apart, but unites us. What really makes  each culture’s cuisine unique? In researching this topic, I came across a number of interesting  books, all of which highlight recipes and food preferences, and generally emphasize the local availability according to what the local climate permits to be grown and/or what type of animals can be raised in it. If you enjoy reading up on this topic, the following books might be of interest to you:

  • Land of Milk and Honey: The Story of Traditional Irish Food and Drink, by Brid Mahon
  • A Little History of Irish Cuisine, by Regina Sexton
  • Irish Food Before the Potato, by A.T. Lucas (This book has the most information regarding the Celtic food history, and how it helped shape the Irish food culture.  Detailed information regarding this book is available at this website.)

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage - Ireland

In the case of Ireland, there are many variations within the country itself, depending whether one lives along the coast or further inland. Prior to the introduction of the potato, foods such as milk, cheese, meat, cereals such as barley and vegetables formed the mainstay of the Irish diet. Along the coastal areas, seafood, seaweed and the addition of herbs and vegetables became the primary source of food. This would be very similar to any of the other European countries, each adding its own unique take on a recipe, perhaps through the addition of particular herbs, or spices. Now, we are talking food history here. By today’s standards, none of this applies. Very few cultures, if any, live isolated. If you shop at any of your local food stores (at least throughout the Western world) you will find imported foods from just about any country in the world. As people travel and discover other cultures, they expect and demand to find these “newly discovered” foods when they return home.  I enjoyed reading up on Irish culture, in particular at this site. So it is not so much the food that sets us apart, but the uniqueness of the people living in it. As people gather around a meal, they bring so much more to the table than food. It is also a sharing of their own cultural identity with regards to music, literature, their own unique familial history, biases both good and bad,  as well as their own religious affiliation and identity. What we eat is also largely determined by our own affluence, or lack of it.

So many of us like to travel and for a brief period of time exchange what is familiar with the immersion in  another culture’s idea of living. Riverstown, County Sligo in Ireland stood out among the travel sites we researched. The Coopershill Inn has been in the O’Hara family for at least eight generations and looks like a charming place to spend a few days when visiting Ireland (this is just our personal opinion and we are not being paid for nor asked to represent them in any way).  I liked this particular location, not only for its historic relevance and charm but especially its commitment to sourcing all of its food locally. It has been awarded eco merits within Europe for its successful incorporation of ecologically sound practices. They grow all their own food on the Estate. Feel free and check out their website here.
At last, here is today’s featured recipe:
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage:
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut, or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar (or sucanat)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • grated rind and juice of one orange
  • Salt and pepper to taste
 This recipe makes approx. 6-8 servings
Cut the cabbage into half, remove the core. Continue to cut each half into very fine slices.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the cabbage, onion, garlic and apples. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender (this will take about 15 minutes).
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot alongside a potato, or meat dish. 
 The addition of fruit, adds a delightful flavor to this old country dish. Let us know how you enjoyed it.

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