Surkal (Sweet & Sour Braised Cabbage)


First off, this isn’t sauerkraut but it’s a dish I love and I think you will too. It does have some affinity with kraut in the way it is cut and flavored. It gets a slightly sour tang from vinegar and uses popular European kraut flavorings such as caraway, cumin and apple.

For those of you who enjoy fermenting and making kraut, I think you’ll actually appreciate some of the things that makes this dish different from kraut. For one thing, it is served warm (it’s a traditional Norwegian Christmas food, typically served with pork belly). It’s also ready in just an hour, which includes prep time. Although the use of fats is optional, this process (described below) will also add a richness to the dish we don’t really find in kraut.

So let’s do this!

This recipe will yield about 4-6 servings.

You will need:

  • Large stockpot & wooden spoon
  • Grater
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • Knife & cutting board


  • 1 medium (~750 g) head of cabbage
  • 2 green apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP caraway seeds
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider (or white) vinegar (divide into 2 TBSP and 1 TBSP for later) 
  • 1 cup stock of choice
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • Optional: 2 TBSP bacon drippings, butter, or reserved stock fat (I used the fat from my AIP bone broth). May sub with oil for a vegan preparation; rapeseed oil is the preferred oil in Norwegian cooking.
  • Optional: 1/2 TBSP whole cumin seeds


1.) Using a mandoline or knife, slice the head of cabbage very thinly.

2.) Optional step: Heat the optional oil or fat on high heat in the pot. Add the apple – it should sizzle – and caraway (and optional cumin) and toss until wilted, around 45 seconds to a minute. If you’re not using a fat in this dish, just add the grated apple and spices to the pot along with the items in Step 3.

3.) Place the shredded cabbage, salt, 2 tablespoons vinegar and the stock into a large pot. Mix evenly with spoon. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook on low for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.) After the time has elapsed, stir in the sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Toss and remove from the heat. Keeping covered, let it sit for about 5 minutes for the flavors to meld. Add additional salt or pepper to taste.

Serve warm and enjoy!

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