Imagine a Christmas without eating something that has been pickled.
I shudder at the thought.
Now I wouldn’t say I make homemade things to give away as gifts (however if I was on the festive receiving end of my Spiced Pineapple Chutney I wouldn’t be sad…) however it does warm my heart a little when I receive things in jars. Any time of the year, to be honest.
But there’s something about this Pickled Red Cabbage that tells me Christmas is coming.
I make it around the start of November, trap it in a few different jars and dot it around my life. I like knowing my propensity to a forkful of this delicious red cabbage whenever I am in the face of a seasonally stacked sandwich or about to throw down on to some cheese and crackers.
This red cabbage makes me feel wonderful. It’s the kind of cabbage that tastes just as good on the side of some cold cut ham and mustard as it is in a leftover turkey and stuffing sandwich. It’s just as good thrown into a stir fry as it is served alongside a sharp curry.
I like the vinegar sharp and spicy, not with heat and brimstone but with a gentle, familiar warmth that brings seasonal joy to every bite.
My pickling liquid (I love those two words together) has a very specific switch. I enjoy pickling things very much in fact and it is something I do all year around. But the minute the weather changes and I hear Mariah hit me with that ‘Iiiiiiiii…. don’t want a lot…’ my pickling liquid takes a sharp turn to the North Pole.
And the liquid relates to everything. Here it is the malevolent allure of red cabbage but I also use it for a plethora of other vegetables and things. And when I put a call out on Instagram as to who would actually care about my pickling liquid… y’all showed out and made me feel loved.
So here is my pickling recipe.
Now I feel a bit ridiculous even writing a recipe for this but I guess anything I make that comes with a list of ingredients somehow warrants a recipe, so here we go.
First make your pickling liquid. I find it so much better to make the night before and let cool overnight which is perfect because once your pan comes to a boil, your work is done.
In a big saucepan that comes with a lid, combine 200ml of water with 200ml of apple cider vinegar.
Into this pan, throw in two cinnamon sticks, a good shake of whole peppercorns, one tablespoons of salt, one tablespoon of coriander seeds, three star anise, a few whole cloves, a few bay leaves and a middle finger length piece of orange peel.
Stir everything together and bring it to a bubble on a high heat.
As soon as it starts boiling, take it off the heat, clamp on a lid and leave somewhere safe in the kitchen – undisturbed – and let it hang out until it’s cool the next day.
Now strain this liquid over a sieve into a big jug so all you have is an enticingly dark, spicy citrus vinegar.
Get yourself a small red cabbage and cut it in half.
Word of warning, not matter how small you think your cabbage is, you will have enough to feed a thousand of the Queens Men.
Stuff the red cabbage into numerous sterilised jars. I can’t advise on how many jars you will need because I don’t know the size of your cabbage… let the amount of jars you have available guide you. A good 750ml jar would be a good start.
Now pour the pickling liquid over the cabbage in the jars so that the cabbage is covered then screw on the lids.
You could eat it straight away but damn it tastes fantastic when left to steep f