I’ve been thinking about trying to make Pickled Pepper Cabbage for years. It used to be easy to buy premade in these parts, and now…not so much. And every once in a while, I get a hankering. I had pulled out my Walp’s Family Restaurant Cook Book—from the famed PA Dutch restaurant that has long since gone out of business—but somehow I wasn’t inspired by it. Then I asked Betty, my PA Dutch laundry lady about Pickled Pepper Cabbage (some call it just Pepper Cabbage and others call it Pickled Cabbage, but it’s the same basic thing, so I’m combining the names). She said “nobody makes it good anymore” because when her mother made it she “squeezed the cabbage by hand, then you get the juice.” Betty also says the word “winegar” when she means vinegar (that’s how Dutchy she is!!!).
Then I went to an awesome dinner out in a Pennsylvania field and sat next to a real live Dutchy named Craig Koller. He promised to send me his mother’s recipe and he did: “As promised, here is my mom’s pepper cabbage recipe,” his note said. “She said to tell you that it originated with the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Kutztown. It was used for congregational dinners. She’s not sure who, exactly, created the recipe, but she got it from Lillian Merkel Baldwin.” Craig sent along a recipe that, I must confess, I changed slightly—mostly because the blender thing wasn’t working for me, but also because these things tend to be too sweet. So I cut the sugar quantity and added some ground pepper because I do like it peppery!
I then invited my whole family over for a Labor Day picnic of Pasties, Pickled Red Beet Eggs, and Pickled Pepper Cabbage. For dessert, I made a molasses cake. The Pickled Pepper Cabbage got rave reviews from all, except for those who refused to eat it.
Here you go, Pickled Pepper Cabbage fans!
- 2 heads cabbage
- 1 large onion
- 1 bunch celery
- 2 green peppers
- 1 red pepper
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 5 cups sugar
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- Cut up the cabbage into fine bits, rinse and put into a colander, drain and put into a bowl.
- Add the salt and let sit for at least 2 hours.
- In a saucepan, put the 5 cups of sugar and 3 cups of vinegar in the 1½ cups of water and bring to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Let the sugar vinegar mixture cool and then add the celery seed, mustard, and pepper. Set it aside.
- Finely chop the onion, celery, and green and red peppers and mix in with the cabbage.
- Put the dressing on top, cover, and refrigerate.
Now, Craig’s mother says you can keep this in the refrigerator for two months. That seems dangerous to me! Mine got eaten in a matter of a few days. There are also rumors that it can be frozen, but I’ve never tried that either. However, if you are making it for a party, definitely make it the day before and let it sit in the fridge.
Eat enough of it, and soon you’ll be saying winegar instead of vinegar, too!
Thanks, Craig and Craig’s mom!