With the change of weather and cooler temperatures, I’ve been craving braised red cabbage, something I don’t normally eat. But I don’t want just cabbage. I want potato pancakes made from shredded potatoes, or “rosti” which are Swiss hash browns and meat. Gotta’ have some sort of pork seasoned simply with salt and pepper; the darker the meat, the better.
I don’t normally eat this way. All summer, I live on salads and vegetable-based meals combined with some grilled meats and maybe some grilled fish. But for the last couple of weeks, I’ve wanted cabbage, potatoes and pork; German comfort food.
I think my craving may just have something to do with the genealogy my sister, Renda, has been doing. Recently, she traced the maternal side of our family back to our great-great-great-great grandmother Catharine Brodbeck, who emigrated from Baden, which is in southwestern Germany, through the city of Breman, to the US in 1854. Catharine traveled with her nine (!) children on a small ship, landing in New York on the day after Christmas in 1854. She then traveled to Ohio to join her husband, the father of her children. Catharine had a total of 14 children but the nine she traveled with ranged in ages from seventeen to as young as four years-old.
When I think of the kind of woman great-great-great-great grandma Catherine must have been, I’m in awe. She traveled half way around the globe, without her husband, with nine children in tow. When she climbed aboard that ship, she’d left behind her home and her extended family. Like so many immigrants, she and her children left their homeland to escape war and economic hardship. Baden is on the banks of the Rhine River, an area that has seen struggle and conflict for centuries.
Once aboard that small ship, what was daily life like for Catharine and her children? How she they feed everyone? What did they eat? I can’t imagine traveling for weeks and weeks with nine hungry, growing children.
And when they arrived in the US, how did the family travel the 540+ miles overland between New York and Ohio? How long did that trip take? How did she feed everyone then? She and her children made this journey a century before the interstate highway system, with its convenient rest stops and exits for food and restroom breaks. Cars wouldn’t become commonplace for another six decades. What drive, determination and optimism they must have had to have completed just that part of the journey!
So, last night when I made a dinner of braised red cabbage with rosti and grilled country-style pork chops for my family, I thought of her. These foods I’ve been craving are traditionally German. Did Catharine feed her family these foods, as well? Is she why I crave them? As I looked across the dinner table at my nine year-old son, I thought about Catharine. I could feel her presence so I told my son her story, which is his story, too.
Sharing and eating goes far beyond nourishing the body, it also touches the soul and honors the past. Braised red cabbage = family ties for me.
Braised Red Cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium head of red cabbage, quartered, cored and cut into ¼ inch strips
1 tart green apple, skin-on, quartered, cored and cut into ¼ inch slices
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a heavy large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage and apple and toss until all is coated with butter and begins to melt. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, pepper and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover and cook for about one and a half hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water, as needed, to prevent sticking.
This dish is even better the second day!
For a mechanical soft diet: no modifications.
If you are on a puree eating plan:
In a mini food processor, pulse ½ cup braised red cabbage with 2 tablespoons water. Once finely chopped, add ½ teaspoon instant food thickener and process until completely combine. It should have the texture of firm mashed potatoes.
Yield: 6 servings
97 calories. 3 gm fat, 17 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm dietary fiber, 3 gm protein. 800 mg sodium. 44% Vitamin C. 181% Vitamin A.