Wednesday October 09, 2013 | 07:08 AM

For that big hit of fall flavor, the pairing of red cabbage and apples say it best.  The peppery sweetness of red cabbage in particular has a natural affinity for the sweet-tart taste of apples, especially the heritage variety, whose flavor can be intense. 

The two ingredients are put to great use in a dish of sweet and sour braised red cabbage with apples, bacon and onions.  I adapted the recipe many years ago from Boston chef and restaurateur Jasper White’s classic cookbook, Cooking from New England.  I’ve tried many other receipts of this kind, but his remains my favorite

While there are many versions of this dish, White’s is unusual because he calls for raspberry vinegar instead of wine- or apple-cider vinegar.  You can find the vinegar at both Hannaford and Whole Foods.

And while we’re high into the apple season, don’t miss out on another New England favorite, apple brown Betty.  It’s a curious name that has no clear provenance. But in this world of Betty’s, pandowdies, grunts, duffs and slumps who’s quibbling? 

However, according to the 1896 editon of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book, there’s a recipe for scalloped apples, which in the 1930 edition is replaced by an identical recipe called Brown Betty.  What happened in those intervening years is anyone’s guess.

Regardless, it’s a great little devise of apples, butter, sugar and bread crumbs all baked together.  Serve it warm with ice cream or a rich custard sauce.

Braised sweet and sour red cabbage

Servings: 6 to 8 as a side dish

1/4 pound well-smoked bacon
1 large onion, diced
2 tart apples like Cortland or greening
1 medium head red cabbage, cored, quartered and roughly chopped or shredded
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1 small Idaho potato, peeled and grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon over low heat in a large braising dish such as a Dutch oven, about 4 to 5 minutes or until the bacon crisps.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened.

Prepare the cabbage by either shredding or chopping it coarsely. Stir the cabbage into the onions and bacon, mixing until combined..  Add the apples, stock, vinegar and brown sugar and stir thoroughly to combine.  Bring to the simmer.  Cover and put in the oven to bake for about 1 hour.  When the cabbage is tender, grate the potato into the mixture and stir well.  This will thicken the braising liquid.  Cover and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cabbage is thoroughly tender and the potato is soft and absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Apple brown Betty
The Betty is basically a casserole of apples, butter and bread crumbs.  It’s been embellished here with grated lemon rind and golden raisins.

Servings: 6 to 8

2 1/2 cups bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
5 cups apples (about 5), peeled, cored and sliced thin
Juice from 1/2
Grated rind from 1 lemon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 pinches cardamom
1 pinch allspice
1/3 cup apple cider or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.  Set aside

In a medium size bowl stir together the crumbs and melted butter until thoroughly moistened and mixed.  Set aside.

Prepare the apples and put into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent coloring.  Add the raisins and toss to combine.  Add the sugar and spices and mix by hand to combine well.

Sprinkle the bottom of the prepared baking dish with a third of the bread crumbs.  Add half of the apple mixture.  Sprinkle with another third of the crumbs.  Add the remaining apple mixture, making sure to scrape out all the sugar and spices that might be left in the bowl.  Cover with the remaining crumbs.  Dot the top with butter.  Then pour the cider around the perimeter of the dish, making sure not to wet the crumbs in the middle. 

Cover with heavy-duty foil and put in the oven for 30 minutes or until the apples become tender. Lower the heat to 375 and remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is golden and the mixture is bubbly.

Serve warm with ice cream or a rich custard sauce.





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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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