Each year, I can’t wait to start using the Dutch oven. From the first hint of a chill in the air, until the summer temperature is absolutely unbearable, the fire engine red pot holds an honored place on top of my stove.
This year, the opening of braising season is marked with brilliant color and subtle hints of smoke, sweet and sour. I start with a basic braising recipe for cabbage from the book Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. Two Granny Smith apples (peeled and cored) and one large onion are sliced into one inch chunks and combined with 6 tablespoons of melted butter, ½ cup of sugar and 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of coarse salt. The mixture caramelizes for about 10 minutes.
Then, the last red cabbage from Restoration Farm is cut into wedges and added along with ¾ cup of apple cider vinegar and ¾ cup of water. I add two inch chunks of smoked sausage to the top, bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer on low for a mere 30 minutes. The apples melt into a sweet caramelized sauce of rich purple, and the cabbage is still crisp, but meltingly tender.