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The recipe I want to try as a side to my beef goulash calls for cooking shredded red cabbage in a quart of water, salt, caraway seeds, and brown sugar. Then it says to drain cabbage when cooked and add vinegar and butter.

If I do this, won't I lose the sweetness that forms the basis of the sweet and sour? Would it maintain flavor better to remove the lid and cook down the liquid and then add vinegar and butter?

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Red cabbage is usually braised, not boiled. Following the instructions listed in your recipe, you're going to lose the flavor of the caraway as well.

For German-style sweet and sour red cabbage I typically saute some diced onion and apple in sugar and butter until just golden, add the shredded cabbage and then cook a little until the cabbage is glazed. Add some beef stock along with red wine vinegar, bay leaf and salt and then braise lightly covered until cabbage has softened. Sprinkle some flour over the top and add add'l beef stock and red wine to this. At the end, remove from heat and stir in a couple of tablespoons red currant jelly just to mix in and balance the sweet/sour flavors.

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That seems really strange to me as well. The typical recipes I have seen and used call for no water at all. Just saute the red cabbage with the other various ingredients and serve. Very tasty. What is the source of your recipe? Some areas / cultures boil and drain everything for reasons that escape me.

My thought is to use all what you mention except the water. It should take 30 to 50 minutes for it to be ready depending on your heat and moisture content of the cabbage.

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