Red pigments, called anthocyanins, are found in only a few vegetables, mainly red cabbage and beets. Blueberries also are colored by these red pigments. (The red color of tomatoes and red peppers is due to the same pigments that color carrots yellow or orange.) Red pigments react very strongly to acids and alkalis.
Acids turn them a brighter red.
Alkalis turn them blue or blue-green (not a very appetizing color for red cabbage).
Red beets and red cabbage, therefore, have their best color when cooked with a small amount of acid. Red cabbage is often cooked with tart apples for this reason.
When a strongly acid vegetable is desired, such as Harvard Beets or Braised Red Cabbage,add just a small amount of acid at first. Acids toughen vegetables and prolong cooking time. Add the rest when the vegetables are tender. Red pigments dissolve easily in water. This means
1. Use a short cooking time. Overcooked red vegetables lose a lot of color.
2. Use only as much water as is necessary.
3. Cook beets whole and unpeeled, with root and an inch of stem attached, to protect color. Skins easily slip off cooked beets.
4. When steaming, use solid pans instead of perforated pans to retain the red juices.
5. Whenever possible, serve the cooking liquid as a sauce with the vegetable.
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