12 Days of Holiday Recipes Day 4: Swedish Red Cabbage

Sven Gustafson

| 3 min read

Today’s recipe is a traditional Swedish dish of braised red cabbage commonly found as part of a julbord, or a Christmas Smorgasbord. In Sweden, it’s commonly served alongside the Christmas ham, but it works equally well with any roasted meat or other bold flavors. In my family, we serve it with Swedish meatballs and potato sausage.
Here’s how Saveur magazine describes the julbord spread:
The Scandinavian Smörgåsbord is a thing of beauty: a long table overloaded with robustly flavored meats, fish, cheeses, and breads, epitomizing the Nordic palate. The spirit of the the smörgåsbord crashes headfirst into the holiday season with its cousin the julbord, a Christmas spread that’s so complex, some home cooks will start work on dinner literally a month ahead of time.
There are countless variations on this recipe, but they generally involve the same main ingredients: red cabbage, tart green apples, onion, vinegar, red wine, spices and sugar (in either crystallized or syrup form). I’ve adapted this one from Epicurious, adjusting it slightly to cut out some fat. You can shred the cabbage and onion ahead of time to save time, or prepare the dish a day ahead of time if you want to serve it cold. Serves eight.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter (or replace the oil with Brummel and Brown, a yogurt-based butter substitute, and increase the amount)
1 large onion, grated or thinly sliced
4 tart green apples (like Granny Smith), peeled, cored and chopped
2 pounds red cabbage, shredded
¼ cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons red or black currant jelly (or substitute a more common variety, like strawberry or raspberry)


In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and apples and sauté until tender. Stir in cabbage and cook until slightly wilted, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Stir in sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper, cloves and allspice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes so that cabbage is crisp-tender. Uncover, add red wine and jelly and cook for 5 more minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
Nutritional Information (Makes 8 servings)
Per serving: 157.1 calories; 5.8g total fat; 9.6mg sodium; 28.3g carbohydrates; 3.1g fiber; 0.8g protein
Here’s a fun video from Britain’s Two Fat Ladies cooking show. Black treacle is a sugar syrup, like black molasses. The hosts cook the cabbage a lot longer than most — about two hours — but I’m sure it’s good. Anyway, it’ll give you a good idea of how it works.
Photo by spinnerin

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