Braised Red Cabbage and Pears: A Winter Side Dish

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In the cold, dark winter months, I tend to find myself preparing most of our meals from my pantry storage and deep freezer. The hearty stews and casseroles we enjoy on most winter evenings make good use of the produce I’ve canned, frozen, and dehydrated during the height of summer harvest. And although I feel fortunate to have a pantry and freezer stocked with healthy, homegrown food, I find it’s nice to eat something fresh on occasion.

Fortunately, we aren’t limited to eating sad, out-of-season tomatoes when craving garden-fresh produce in the wintertime. Instead, we can turn to those fruits and vegetables that are at their peak in cooler temps – whether they are growing in your garden right now (depending on your climate), hanging out in the root cellar, or otherwise available at a farmers’ market or local supermarket. The humble and oft-overlooked cabbage is one of these winter vegetables. It’s a particular favorite of mine because, not only are they delicious, but they are versatile (think sauteed, slaw, salad,stuffed cabbage, and stir-fries), and also a powerhouse of nutrition (loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and, in the case of red cabbage, antioxidants).

In this recipe, I’ve used red cabbage and a common winter fruit – the pear. Braised together in a German-style sweet and sour sauce, this recipe for Braised Red Cabbage and Pears is a beautiful side dish next to roasted chicken, a slow-cooked pot roast, or wild game. It makes for a hearty meal alongside sausages and big scoop of homemade mashed potatoes. For a vegetarian meal, try it as an accompaniment to your favorite pierogi.


2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 medium head red cabbage, cored, and thinly sliced
1 firm pear, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (or 1-½ teaspoons fine sea salt or table salt)
¼ ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Dried or fresh dill for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the butter on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.
  2. Add water, cider vinegar, and honey to the onions and butter, and stir to combine. Add the cabbage, pears, salt, pepper, and ground cloves, and gently mix everything together. It may look dry at this stage, but do not add extra liquid at this point because the cabbage and pears will create more liquid as they cook.
  3. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Cook a little longer if you want the cabbage to be more tender).
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh or dried dill before serving (optional).