Red cabbage develops its deep, reddish-purple color from growing in acidic soil. With thicker leaves that have a faintly peppery taste, red cabbage tends to keep longer than its green cousin.
Thriving in humid climates with well-fertilized soil, red cabbage is primarily a winter crop. Like green cabbage, it can be used raw or cooked. Its sweet-spicy flavor and brilling color make it delicious in cole slaw. Sliced thinly, it can also add texture to other greens in fresh salads. Holding up well to winter's heartier dishes, red cabbage is excellent braised alongside fish, pork, game or sausage.
As with green cabbage, buy firm, heavy heads of red cabbage with tightly furled, smooth leaves and a vibrant purple color. Compare similarly sized heads and select the heaviest one. To ensure freshness, check that the stem end has not cracked around the base.
Refrigerate heads of red cabbage for up to 2 weeks. If you want to eat the cabbage raw, do so within 3 or 4 days. Do not cut or shred cabbage until you are ready to use it. Store the unused portion intact, wrapped in plastic, and use within 2 days.
Red cabbage turns pale blue when heated. To retain its vibrant red color during cooking, add a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice, or cook the vegetable with acidic ingredients such as apples or wine. Work with red cabbage the same as you would with green cabbage: discard any wilted outer leaves, cut out the core and use as directed in the recipe.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).
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