I live in hope that any red cabbage be treated well but on the whole my heart sinks. Yet again it arrives at the table a waterlogged inkblot of durge purple misery. Why bother
Here is the secret. DO NOT ADD WATER
Take a breath and exhale your old method. Send your copy of 50 shooting lunch favourites to the charity shop. Here we go.
Remove any offending outer leaves from the cabbage and discard them. From stalk to top, split the cabbage in half down the centre. Cut out the main part of the white core inside. Cutting across the cabbage, shred it from top to bottom as thinly as you can. Rinse the cabbage under cold water in a colander and let it drain. The object of this is to only take the amount of water left on the cabbage to the pan.
Get a big heavy-bottomed pan that can easily accommodate all the cabbage. Put it on a large ring at full heat and get the butter in. When melted throw in all the cabbage. You should hear a frying sound and this is good. Add 2 teaspoons salt, a heavy grind of pepper, the bay leaves and the cloves. Cook it like this for about 10 minutes, stirring often and adding a flick of water here and there.
Now add the vinegar. Step away briefly as the initial steam shoots up, or you will be staggering backwards from the stove scraping your eyes and screaming AYE! Vinegar steam is unpleasant. You will notice that once the vinegar is stirred in, it snatches back the vivid purple of the cabbage. Keep on cooking and stirring until all the vinegar has evaporated. You should not see any loose vinegar in the bottom of the pan.
Only when it has completely evaporated should you sprinkle in the sugar. You must watch the cabbage now like a hawk would for mice. In the absence of water, the sugar will melt and start to caramelize. Keep on stirring it and moving it around so that each sliver of cabbage rests only fleetingly on the bottom of the pan. If you ignore it, the sugar will catch and things will start to burn. Keep the contents on the move.
After 5 minutes of constant attention, the cabbage should be done. Taste it. It should have a pleasant sweet and sour taste, a moistness with a bit of bite and be something that you would not try to hide beneath your knife and fork.