Fermented cabbage has been a staple food in my family since forever.
Usually those were my grandparents who were taking some time every season to make enough of it, and then it has been distributed all over the family – buckets and buckets of white firm cabbage fermented with carrots and cranberries. Something present at almost every meal. Stored on the balcony outside during the coldest part of the year (75% of the year). Enjoyed alone, or in a salad, or with aromatic sunflower oil and onions (the best thing ever) with some rye bread. I honestly preferred it over deserts. Or as a snack. Since being a kid.
Funny enough, although the tradition continues, and now my parents are making it every season, I only recently discovered the simplicity and beauty of making it myself.
I had to start making kombucha, sourdough, yoghurt, kimchi and pickles – to finally arrive to the point when I bought some cabbage (red in this case, cause there is no white firm cabbage in Portugal for some reason, or I haven’t seen it yet) and decided to pack it into a jar “russian style”.
Because fermenting vegetables is as simple as that, apparently. You chop and pack them tightly, and then you wait.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a complex process, but the majority of the work is done by bacteria, not us, people XD
Fermenting vegetables – Red Cabbage Sauerkraut
I will not be giving here an exact recipe, nothing close to it. Because if there is anything I got out of “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Katz – you should trust yourself, and always experiment. So I will share with you the basic principles. The basics of the basics.
You can pickle things (really, pretty everything) using 2 methods:
- you can put the vegetables/fruits/flowers etc into the brine (5% salt is enough – 50 grams of salt per 1000 grams of water )
- you can squeeze the juice out the things you are going to pickle, and “bury” it under its proper juices (using 2% salt, or more, or less, or not using it at all, it is possible – here 2% means 2 %of the weight of the veggies that you are fermenting)
The first way is great if your goal is to keep vegetables intact, or in big pieces. Or in pieces. You just wash them, sometimes leave in cold water for a couple of hours to not lose the crunch, and then pack them into a jar and cover them with the brine (room temp max, or cold) and put something heavy on top, for the vegetables not to float.
Easy. Your main job is to maintain everything submerged. Submerged equals safe, because salty brine and lactic bacteria will create a selective environment and will not let your food go bad. If, on the other side, something will be floating and contacting with air, it most probably will go mold.
So, the second way is good when you want the veggies chopped. You do exactly this – chop them finely, mix them together, sprinkle with salt (2% of the veggie weight this time), leave them to start sweating their juices.
Come back in an hour, massage them, massage them very well, till it looks like they’ve given it all, add some spices for an extra flavour – and then pack it all tightly into a jar. Put something heavy on top, for the vegetables to maintain in the salty solution.
And I usually close the jar with the gaze, or coffee filter – to keep the mosquitos and flies away.
Then – store it somewhere away from the heat and direct sunlight (indirect is ok), and wait.
Every day press it a bit more, to allow the forming CO2 to escape, and making sure everything is submerged. The whole thing will get bubbly, you will see the evidence that something is happening there, something gooood.
You can start trying it from day 4, depending on your room temperature – and leave it to ferment as long as you find necessary. Some people prefer to keep it light, and start eating it from 4-5 day, some – leave it to ferment 8-14 days. Or longer. Store it in the fridge when you think it is on point.