Saturday, November 18, 2023

Pepper Cabbage - From A Coalcracker In The Kitchen


A traditional sweet and sour cabbage salad dish of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

"Shredded or grated cabbage in a side dish will often conjure up visions of Cole slaw for many people here in the Coal Region. I am hard pressed to think of how many times I went to a diner where it was not on the menu; it’s very popular. But, as much as I love a good Cole slaw, my favorite cold cabbage side dish is Pepper Cabbage.

A sweet and sour dish, pepper cabbage (aka “pickled cabbage”) features a German, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Coal Region favorite — the ever popular cabbage — but not in a creamy dressing as in many traditional slaws.

Pepper cabbage features a tangy clear syrup. The grated cabbage salad is dotted with colorful cubes of sweet bell peppers. Some purists use only green bell pepper, I use a mix of at least red and green (sometimes yellow and orange if I have them) because I like the colorful mix and the difference in taste between the peppers. Some cooks add chopped onion, celery, or even carrot to the mix. I am an opportunist; I use the ingredients available in my fridge at the time I am making this recipe, but I personally do not add onion."

1 1/2 to 2 pound head cabbage, quartered and core removed
1 large sweet red bell pepper, seeded
1 large green bell pepper, seeded (OR use all green bell pepper)
OPTIONAL: grated carrot, finely diced onion/celery (to your taste)

1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water (may adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper or to taste


Cut the cabbage into 4 quarters, remove the core from each quarter. Grate by hand on the coarse holes of a hand grater OR cut the quarters in pieces that will fit the feed tube on your food processor. With a shredding blade, process the cabbage until completed.

Transfer cabbage to a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper and a few layers of paper towels and refrigerate for about an hour to drain OR press firmly with paper towels to remove water. Set aside

Dice the bell peppers into roughly 1/4 inch dice by hand. Place them on a layer of paper towel to drain while preparing the dressing.

In a bowl, stir together the vinegar, water, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Start with 3/4 cup water, mix then taste; add additional water if it is too tangy for your preference.

Place the cabbage and peppers in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and peppers and stir thoroughly.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or, preferably, overnight. Stir occasionally. Serve.

"The cabbage for this dish should be grated, not shredded; the coarse holes on a box grater yields the correct texture for the cabbage. You can also use the shredding blade on a food processor; this is particularly handy when making a large quantity of pepper cabbage.

I do not care for the peppers grated so I finely chop them by hand. I never use the food processor for the peppers because they tend to produces a lot of liquid when done that way. Since I don’t care for them shredded, I don’t use the the box grater for them, either. My personal preference is to dice the peppers by hand resulting in an approximately 1/4 inch dice."


Lori Fogg was the author of the blog,  “A  Coalcraker In The Kitchen” where she shared recipes, and creative ideas based on her experiences growing up in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.  Fogg died in 2022.   

From her now archived blog:

What is a “Coalcracker” and what the heck are you doing in the kitchen?

“Coalcracker“: Affectionate term for a resident of Northeastern Pennsylvania, but particularly of the Anthracite (coal) Region (Scranton to the Lehigh Valley to Schuylkill County).

With the expansion of the mining and railroad industries. English, Welsh, Irish and German (the “Dutch” (Deutsch) in Pennsylvania Dutch) immigrants formed a large portion of the population, followed by Polish, Slovak, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Lithuanian immigrants.

The influence of these immigrant populations is still strongly felt in the region, with various towns possessing pronounced ethnic characters and cuisine. Throw in some influence from the Pennsylvania Dutch of the Schuylkill County and Lehigh Valley areas and you have a sampling of Coal Region comfort foods!

The Coal Region is a historically important Anthracite (“hard coal”) coal-mining area in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the central Appalachian Mountains, comprising Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, and the extreme northeast corner of Dauphin counties.

Her recipes can still, currently,  be found using the WayBack Machine Internet Archive:


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