Holiday dinners are so evocative. They’re steeped in tradition and emotion (hopefully happy) and help us measure the rhythm of the seasons and years. For vegans, it can be a hard time sitting at the table and having to forego old family favourite recipes that use animal products.
For me, red cabbage is one of those dishes. My mom made it at every holiday dinner, and only at holiday dinners. I can’t even see a red cabbage in the grocery store without thinking it’s a holiday.
My mother’s recipe calls for 4-6 strips of bacon to be rendered and crushed. Then the apples and cabbage are braised in this fat/pig-belly mixture. Ewww.
With just a bit of tweaking, I’ve figured out how to simulate the savoury, salty, smokiness of the bacon using miso, margarine and liquid smoke. The results are my mom’s recipes taken to the next level of delicious compassion.
1 red cabbage – remove the outer leaves and then cut out the core. Chop the cabbage into roughly 1 to 2 cm pieces
3-4 apples (I used MacIntosh apples – use a variety that is not sweet). You want a 2:1 ratio of cabbage to apples so adjust how many apples you use based on the size of your cabbage. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1 cm pieces (see image).
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp miso paste
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp cider vinegar*
3 Tbsp vegan margarine
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
A few grinds of pepper (optional)
Melt the margarine in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the miso and liquid smoke and stir to combine. Add the cabbage and apples and water. Stir everything together to get the cabbage apples coated in the margarine mix. Add the vinegar, salt and brown sugar and stir again to combine all. Add the bay leaves if using. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. When it’s cooked, the cabbage volume will have reduced by about a third and the cabbage will be soft but not mushy). The apple will be pretty much impossible to spot. Fish out the bay leaves if you used them and serve the cabbage.
This recipe is also great with vegan sausages, perogies or “white” dishes such as tetrazzini, béchamel or alfredo-sauced pasta or mushroom stroganoff.
*Fun fact – you MUST add vinegar or some sort of acid to red cabbage when you cook it or it will turn the most unappetizing blue-gray hue that’s roughly the colour of sadness.