Wednesday 22 October 2014

Pickled red cabbage

Actual pickled red cabbage in a lifelike plate scenario.

I was looking for something vibrant, acid and crunchy to go with my slow braised lamb shanks. I thought this was such an original idea for a contrast veg until... of course... I was researching Hot Pot recipes for the coming Winter season and learned that the AGE OLD, TRADITIONAL accompaniment is... yup. You can never be sure if this is a cheffy complicity or simply that I've seen the combination at some point and forgotten, almost.

I love pickled veg although my least favourite - ironically - is pickled onion. My father used to make eye watering quantities of these every Christmas and sit crunching them for hours like a happy, herby troll, until he could strip the varnish from doors at ten paces. Mind, this was a man who could happily eat an onion like an apple.

This recipe is from Glynn Purnell's book: Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales.

He says this serves four people. I'd say more like twelve, unless the meal you're presenting is simply a large plate of red cabbage.

It's simple enough but quite a commitment to make. That's a lot of vinegar. There are simpler recipes but this is deep, complex and rewarding.

Pickled Red Cabbage

Finely shred a red cabbage (I used a mandolin) and sprinkle with 150g of coarse sea salt in a large non-reactive bowl. Leave for three hours. Rinse off salt.

Note. I used a mixture of coarse and fine which meant I had to then wash the cabbage many times - like salt cod - to avoid an unbearable salinity. Stick to the coarse!

Meanwhile... in a large pot, combine 540ml malt vinegar (the real stuff not the look-likey; never use that acetic imposter), 280ml white wine vinegar, 280ml balsamic vinegar, a bottle of punchy red wine and 500g of sugar. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. At least thirty minutes.

Your entire house will now be home to vinegar stink... sorry, should have warned you. Press on!

Meanwhile... grind up 2 star anise, 6 cloves, 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of pink peppercorns, 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 dried chillies. Add this to the vinegar mix along with 6 bay leaves. Leave to infuse for a few minutes.

Strain the vinegar mix to remove the large solids and pour onto the rinsed cabbage. Store in the fridge or in kilner jars until needed.

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