Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest opens today! For the next sixteen days, Munich will host the biggest fair in the world. One of my friends asked me why I enjoy a festival where everyone drinks beer to excess.

Oktoberfest is so much more than that. I remember going with my grandfather, who took me on fun rides. There are all sorts of foods for sale, including chocolate hearts wrapped in shiny paper and a ribbon so people can wear them around their necks.

Sure, beer plays a big role, but so does food in general. Roast pig, bratwurst, pretzels, and, of course, red cabbage.

Red cabbage is a big German favorite. I received an email recently, touting recipes for Oktoberfest. But when I checked them out -- oh my! Red cabbage cooked with spices in chicken broth? No, no, no!

Now, I am the first to admit that red cabbage could be perfectly good cooked that way. And, I concede that when it comes to recipes that have been around for a long time, there are regional variations of recipes that invariably lead to the that's-not-how-my-mother-made-it complaint. But that recipe just wasn't real German Rotkraut! You'll note that I've tucked in an image of Niman Ranch Bratwurst. I'm not Natasha, so I don't make my own sausages. If you're looking for a great bratwurst, Niman's Ranch is terrific. It's worth finding where you live. It costs a little bit more than grocery store brands, but the difference is incredible.

So back to red cabbage. It's ridiculously easy to make. But we do break one major rule here (Dave is going to have some trouble believing this). They say not to cook with any wine that you wouldn't drink. Well, Manischewitz Blackberry (not Concord Grape!) Wine doesn't taste bad, but it's not the wine I would choose to go with my dinner. Yet, it brings terrific flavor to a lot of foods, like stewed venison and -- you guessed it -- red cabbage. This is the secret ingredient that gives it that special taste.

Traditional German Red Cabbage

2 tablespoons olive oil (not with strong olive taste)
1 onion
1 red cabbage, outer leaves discarded
2 apples, peeled and quartered, seeds removed
2 cups Manischewitz Blackberry Wine
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
dash of salt

Slice the onion, cabbage, and apples. This can be done by hand or with a slicing blade in a food processor.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Saute until translucent. Add the cabbage, apples, and red wine. Add two tablespoons of vinegar. Put a lid on the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally. When the cabbage begins to soften, add a dash of salt, and taste to see if it needs more vinegar. Cook about one hour, or until it reaches the desired degree of softness.

They're not in season yet, but in the winter, adding roasted chestnuts to the red cabbage makes it even better!


Thanks to WikiCommons and Softeis, senator86, Bernhard J. Scheuvens, andHullbr3ach for sharing their photos of Oktoberfest!


  1. I love Oktoberfest! We met my sister and her husband last year at one that a German restaurant holds. Great music, great food...great beer!

    I don't know a lot about German foods (except that I enjoy them), so thank for the red cabbage recipe, Krista!

  2. I bet the blackberry wine makes this extra yummy! One of our local Bavarian-themed cities is having an Oktoberfest right now.

  3. Elizabeth, I forgot to mention the festive music! That adds so much to the experience. Hope you enjoy the red cabbage!

    Janel, the blackberry wine adds just the right amount of sweetness, then the apple cider vinegar brings in a little zing. If you have a chance to go to a local Oktoberfest, especially in a Bavarian-themed city, I bet you'll have a great time!

    ~ Krista

  4. I was lucky enough to go to Munich during a college trip and absolutely loved the experience. What fun! The oom-pah-pah!

    Wine with cabbage, very interesting! Love it

  5. If you don't cook it to death, it's healthy, too, Avery. Munich is a party town. There's always some festival underway or about to start.

    ~ Krista

  6. I love red cabbage. Thanks for this great version, Krista, and the European side trip too. Great stuff.


  7. Love this idea!

    Greetings from (northern )Germany :)
    And always keep this in your mind, if you visit a "Wiesn" or "Oktoberfest":

    "oans zwoa gsuffa"


  8. Thanks for the wonderful recipe for Red cabbage. My ancestors on both sides came from Germany. My paternal side being Pennsylvania Dutch. So I love this recipe especially with the blackberry wine, LOL.

  9. Thanks for the recipe, Krista! A friend makes divine rotkraut, and often asks, "What can I bring?" Yummmm.

  10. MJ, hope you give this a shot. It's very easy, and I think you'll enjoy it.

    Thanks for the laugh, Heike! Can you believe that I not only know what that means, but I know the tune that goes with it? LOL!

    Susan, you're so welcome. Red cabbage isn't very popular in parts of the states -- except as slaw. I bet the Pennsylvania Dutch make something very similar.

    ~ Krista

  11. Oans = one
    zwoa = two
    gsuffa = booze

    It's synonymous with "cheers". :D

  12. K - Chiming in very late to say how much I enjoyed this post -- *and* the comments!!! One, two, booze! LOL!

    I have been looking for a truly great red cabbage recipe for some time. This is it! The blackberry wine is genius. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. Great recipe, but one question. In the list of ingredients you say 2 - 3 teaspoons of vinegar but in the how to cook you say 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. So is it teaspoons or tablespoons?

  14. Janet, you can surprise your friend with this recipe!

    Thanks for the translation, Heike. I think that little ditty is being sung a lot in Munich right now!

    Thanks, Cleo! My mom is the one who discovered how well the blackberry wine works.

    Oops, that's a typo, NLB. It should be tablespoons. Will correct right now! Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy.

    ~ Krista