The Christmas Cabbage.

The Newly-weds’ first Christmas is a mine-field. The dilemma is, not so much whether Bride or Groom will get to spend Christmas with their family as, which family is abandoned and left feeling disappointed.

When Husband and I faced this crisis my descisive (in my opinion) argument was that I simply could not have Christmas without red cabbage. Red cabbage was adopted as a Christmas tradition in our house at some point in the 1980s. I don’t know how or why. If you eat the same thing for two consecutive Christmases it automatically gets promoted to tradition.

In Husband’s home, longstanding tradition dictated an outlandish concoction known as bread sauce. Bread sauce involves some witchcraft of painstakingly studding onions with cloves, brewing said decorated onion in milk and thickening the clovey, oniony milk with breadcrumbs. In Cork, they call the resulting pale and mild mush a festive side dish.

Husband’s decisive (in his opinion) counter argument was that I could bring the red cabbage with me to his house. I did.


That year, and many more years after, my contribution to the festive feast was a mighty casserole full of red cabbage. The dish circumnavigated the table and exactly one person helped herself to a massive portion. Everyone else politely declined, pleeding the need to save room for the delectable bread sauce. IMG_8125

We have our own family now, our own Christmas dinner and our own ever-growing list of traditions.

The Christmas Cabbage is less a tradition now than a point of dogged insistence. I like the stuff (she said defensively). The sweetness is a decent foil to salty ham and it matches turkey in just the same way that cranberry sauce does. It freezes perfectly, by which I mean that the thawed and reheated product is indistinguishable from the freshly made. Surely, the ideal food for Christmas day is something that you can make in late November!

If you’d like something with exact quantities, there is a Ballymaloe recipe here.

Expend a few calories halving, quartering and thinly slicing the cabbage. My gigantic specimen provided more than I could fit in my biggest pot,IMG_8127and I still had a quarter leftover (never fear, it makes great coleslaw).IMG_8128

I laughed out loud at this point. I was getting slightly hysterical at the prospect of eating all of this by myself. The dog was looking concerned, possibly by my hysteria or maybe by the thought that he would be encouraged to assist me in my endeavour.

I should urge you, a la Nigella, to consider a pair of plastic gloves.IMG_8126The purple tint is not to everyone’s taste.

Beyond the arduous, but satisfying, chopping it gets easy.

Add a roughly equal weight of chopped Bramley (cooking) apple, a cup of water, a splash of red wine (or Balsamic) vinegar, a hefty pinch of salt and a tablespoon of golden syrup. Cover and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes.


You can see that the volume reduces dramatically. This came as a relief to both me and the dog.

Tempted? Surely you have better things to do on Christmas morning than onion-studding?

11 thoughts on “The Christmas Cabbage.

  1. Red cabbage is a must with our Christmas dinner too but at my husband’s request. I like bread sauce but as no one else does, I’ve not made it for years. I like to add freshly grated ginger to my cabbage too. You are definitely making me feel more Christmassy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I’ll pass on the cabbage, as we don’t have turkey on Christmas Day ……. and on the occasions when we do have bread sauce, it is made from a packet mix! I got organised yesterday and checked the store cupboard for Christmas cake ingredients, ahead of my food shop this morning, so the cake will be baked soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cleaned my cupboards out when we did a house swap in August. Since then they have degenerated to chaos but they will need to get a good deal worse before I’m tempted to do it again. Enjoy the cake-making.


  3. This post made me smile Lynda. I love red cabbage and cook it in a similar way to you – I add chopped up apples, raisins, cider vinegar and some dark brown sugar. I find it’s best made ahead and reheated. Yum. Bread sauce? Yuk!

    Liked by 1 person

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