On a desk in his kitchen, Frank McClelland keeps an old handwritten book of recipes from his grandmother, Virginia Sutherland McClelland. This dish is a close adaptation of her version–a harmonious blend of sweet, tart, and warm spice flavors.
Soak cabbage in cold water 1 hour. (This step is optional, but it does take away the bitter “cabbage-y” flavors.) Strain into a colander. Preheat oven to 350º.
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt butter. When butter sizzles, add onions and cook until clear, about 6 minutes. Add apples and garlic and stir 1 minute. Add cabbage, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cider, salt, and pepper; stir well. Cover pot and bake in oven until very tender, about 1-½ hours.
Just before cabbage is done, whisk together cornstarch, brown sugar, and vinegar. Remove cabbage from oven and add cornstarch mixture slowly while stirring over low heat. Cook until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Taste sauce for sweet/sour balance; add extra sugar or vinegar if you like. Remove bay leaves before serving.