Cabbage is perfect for fermenting because the cell walls are easily broken down with salt, and the juices that are released quite easily make the brine. This is The Fermentary’s much-coveted recipe, which has quite a following in Melbourne.
Sauerkraut is an obvious best place to start with fermenting; it's hard to ruin this, I promise.
- 2 green cabbages, shredded
- about 50 g (1¾ oz) fine ground salt (check ratio)
- 1 fresh jalapeño (if you like extra heat include the chilli membrane and seeds, if not, remove them)
- 1 chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeño), ground or chopped roughly
- 10 g (¼ oz) cracked black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Allow 2–4 weeks fermentation time.
Weigh the shredded cabbage (as cabbages can vary in size and weight) and determine the salt measurement; the amount of salt you use should come to about 1.5-2.5 per cent, but no more than 3 per cent, of the cabbage weight.
Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl or container, sprinkle over the salt and let sit to sweat a bit - maybe 10 minutes. Pound or massage to get all of the juices out – ideally enough so that if you pick up a handful of cabbage you’ll have dripping water flowing from a clenched fist. You can also use the dough hook of a stand mixer to do the pounding, but don't let it run for too long, only a few minutes.
Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pack tightly into your jar or crock and add a weight (see Note) - you need the brine to cover the cabbage. Don't pack the cabbage all the way to the top; leave some headroom at the top of the jar to allow for a bit of movement and, of course, the weight. Seal with your preferred air-lock system; some suggestions include S-bend locks from a home brewery shop, plastic wrap wrapped around the lid as it stretches, or ensuring there is enough brine to cover the ferment.
Wait. Check for flavour development - you can start trying it as soon as you like, but the less you fiddle with in in the first two weeks, the better. It is ready when you think it is delicious. Refrigerate when ready – usually 2–3 weeks, but longer if you like it cured and more complex.
This will keep in the fridge for up to 12 months.
• There are many weights on the market now, but making once can be satisfying. Use a bit of vegetable such as a chunk of carrot or a bit of red onion to the size you need works well - just make sure that whatever you use is big enough so the lid pushes it down into the cabbage and holds it down. A vegetable can add a bit of flavour though, so choose with that in mind. Alternatively, you can use another jar - perhaps filled with water to make it heavier. Don't use plastics or metal.
• You can leave out the jalapeño, chipotle and pepper to make a basic kraut.
Recipe from Ferment For Good by Sharon Flynn (Hardie Grant Books, hc, $39.99). Lead image by James Broadway.