1. Go to the grocery store. Stare at the display of red cabbage and say, "I wonder what you'd do with that?!"
2. Lug one home and set it on the counter. Hope someone will knock on the door and offer to cut it up for you. You wait. Six tiny women appear but unfortunately their arms are only painted on. Now you will have to make your own red cabbage.
3. Cutting up the cabbage...okay, this is where my mom might actually take a quick break from paradise to put in her two cents. Some people expect a massive head of cabbage to be frittered into tiny, uniform bits, the way a gerbil would reduce a phone book to a pile of shavings.
Ask yourself: are you a man or a mouse? A girl or a gerbil?
That's what I thought.
See, it doesn't reflect in the least upon you or your social standing whether you serve your red cabbage barely visible to the naked eye or looking like someone took a few swipes at it with a machete.
But just in case you are sensitive to such aristocratic constraints, by all means spend the next ten years of your life piece-mealing the living daylights out of that thing.
4. Now here is where the real guesswork begins. I took this recipe from my friend, Anette, who is in Germany at the moment. And even if she was handy for consultation, she happens to be just as vague and impulsive in the kitchen as I am.
5. Melt butter in a heavy, cast-iron pot. How much butter? Do you impose restrictions on your butter intake? Probably the majority of one stick...what is that? About 1/3 cup? It really doesn't matter. Butter can't ruin anything...except perhaps your waistline.
6. Now for the white vinegar. Here again, I am going out on a limb. Let's say nine tablespoons--add that to the melted butter and watch your cauldron spit and hiss!
7. Time for the white sugar. Does a 1/3 of a cup sound unreasonable? Yes? Well, maybe put in a bit less. If we have bungled the ratio of vinegar to sugar, I'll show you how to fix it in a minute.
8. Let it all percolate for a second, then add in your chopped cabbage. Stir it around, salt and pepper to taste. By the way, I would reduce the heat to low.
9. Peel and cut up an apple into little chunks. Throw that in. Anette advises using apple juice instead, but she's not here so we're doing things my way.
10. Now for the best part, the pièce de résistance: add a bayleaf and two or three whole cloves. Honestly, I would advise no more than two cloves, because cloves are the gangbangers of the spice world. You seriously cannot afford to mess around with them.
11. Lean over your pot and take a deep whiff of that witch's brew. Isn't it amazing?! Isn't it divine?!
12. Cover the pot and let the whole thing simmer on a very low heat for about 30 minutes. Now and then, help yourself to a little taste. Is it brilliant? Or does it have problems? See next step...
13. Okay, here is where I show you how to fix your vinegar to sugar screw ups. Pay attention, my budding mathematicans: If your cabbage tastes too tart and vinegary, you can cut that by adding a sprinkle of sugar. If your cabbage tastes too cloying and sweet, simply dash in more vinegar.
Go easy on your touch ups though, or you will be stuck with a pot of swill!
What goes nicely with red cabbage? This dinner, right here.
One last thing: if anyone hammers down the correct vinegar to sugar ratio, by all means let us in on the secret!