One of the biggest discoveries or things I really gotten into this year, that have now became an add-on to almost every savoury meal and I honestly hardly imagine ever not having them on my plate, are all the different pickled and fermented veggies. It’s something that has always been a part of my life, growing up in Slovenia – my grandma would pickle tons of cucumbers every year and not to mention all the many traditional winter meals that include sauerkraut. But it kind of seemed that those are the things that are to be pickled and eaten with those specific things we’re used to having them with… And then luckily, what has happened in the last few years, with this pickling/fermenting trend taking over fancy and hip restaurants, widening the horizons of what is possible, it made me realise there is probably not a single meal that a pickled little topping of something can’t make even the tiniest bit better. And now there’s usually at least 5 different jars in our fridge, of whatever veggies I have on hand that I feel could taste good pickled, but a definite must have is this purple beauty, red sauerkraut. Buddha bowls, avocado toast, salads, topping the roasted veggies, you name it, it really goes well with so many things, it’s super crunchy and tangy and once you made it, it will last for ages in your fridge. You only really need a head of red cabbage and some salt, some squeezing, and the rest will make itself. And seriously, how great is the colour?
- A head of red cabbage
- 2 tbs salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
- Using a knife or a mandolin, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. I like to start by quartering the whole head, and then pay as much attention as possible to make them super thin. Discard the white hard middle/bottom bit.
- Place the shredded cabbage in a big bowl or container, sprinkle and gently rub in the salt, cover and leave it rest for 2 hours or so. This will make the next step much easier, as it will draw some water out of the cabbage. (The salt is here basically to kill the bacteria we do not want to grow during fermentation, as the lactic bacteria have a much higher tolerance to salty environments in comparison and as it will draw the water out of the cabbage, the cabbage will be nicely submerged in water, fermenting without any moulds occurring)
- Now get ready for some serious squeezing (this is where I like to use all my strength to convince my boyfriend to do the job for me, you may want to do the same). It will take 10-15 minutes to get enough water out, keep on it until if you press on the cabbage firmly you can submerge it in water.
- Add the cumin, if using, and mix well.
- Transfer the cabbage and the water in a clean large glass jar, or several, leaving an 1/8th of the jar on top empty, as the cabbage will rise and get slightly bubbly in a couple of days.
- I like to fill either a small jar or a zip lock bag with water and place it on top of the cabbage in a larger jar. This will work as a water weight which will ensure all the cabbage is submerged at all times. Play around with different things you have, to find one that fits well in your fermenting jar. Cover the jar loosely either with its lid (if it fits on top of the weight) or place a bag over it.
- The jar will be left out on the kitchen bench for a couple of days.
- Every 12 or so hours (12 is ideal don’t be too stressed if you forget at times and only do it once a day) take a potato masher or a large spoon and press the cabbage firmly into the water. Give the weight a rinse and place it back on top.
- Depending on the room temperature, you’ll want to leave it out from 3-6 days. In our Melbourne apartment it usually takes 6 days in winter, and 4 in summer. The colour will change from dark purple to bright pink-purple, and the smell will become lightly acidic. Once this happens have a taste, if it is sour enough for your taste, close the lid tightly and place it in the fridge, where it will mature over time, but there’s nothing wrong with having it at this stage already. If not, leave it out for a bit longer.
Note: There is many different books out there written on the topic, that explain the process and science behind it in great detail and present many creative pickling recipes. One good recommendation would be The Noma Guide to Fermentation.