Crazy for Curtido

My life and my kitchen have both been overtaken by fermenting cabbage lately. (Is there a support group for that?) Partially, it’s the season. I always want to make hearty, fattier foods when the weather turns cold and sauerkraut and curtido are the perfect accompaniments. Plus cabbage turns sweeter as the weather gets chillier, making it a tastier proposition all around.

The other reason for the abundance of fermenting cabbage is that I’ve been doing a lot of demos to promote DIY Delicious and ferments are interesting to people and lend themselves well to demoing. Fermenting is something a lot of people want to try but have maybe felt intimidated. Ferments are also quick to make in a prescribed amount of time on a stage (most of the time is passive time spent waiting for them to ferment). I always bring a finished batch with accompaniments for tasting.

What type of accompaniments? Well, you can eat curtido, sauerkraut, or other fermented vegetables with beans, in grain bowl salads, atop soup, with sausages, mashed potatoes, on sandwiches, in tacos and quesadillas and even on pizza with the right flavor profile combination.

Lately I’ve been serving curtido with simply cooked Rancho Gordo beans (gotta give the other book some love) and local queso fresco. The demo days have been cold and rainy so that dish has been working out quite nicely.

I had some leftovers the other day and created the taco you see pictured above. To make it, I sandwiched some grated cheese between two tortillas and crisped them in a cast-iron pan to make a taco dorado.  I added beans, leftover steak, avocadoes, salsa, cilantro and a big dollop of curtido. I took another batch to a friend’s birthday party where it was enjoyed with tamales by all the guests.

The only problem: My whole laundry basket smelled like fermenting cabbage because of the tea towels I’d used to cover the Mason jars. Thank goodness a double wash took care of the problem, and prevented me from having to replace all my clothing!

Wild Salvadoran Curtido from DIY Delicious

Time Required: 15 minutes active; 3 to 5 days passive

Curtido is a lightly fermented cabbage salad commonly served with pupusas. Think of it as sort of a Latin American sauerkraut.

Makes 1 quart

1 medium head green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds), quartered, cored, and sliced as thinly as possible

1/2 a small onion, sliced thinly

2 to 3 carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 jalapenos, cut in quarters lengthwise, seeded and sliced thinly

1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed

Put the cabbage, onion, and carrots in a large bowl. Add the salt and, with clean hands, toss and squeeze the vegetables until they start to soften and release their liquid (about 5 minutes). Add the jalapenos and oregano and toss to distribute. Pack the mixture tightly into a one-quart, wide-mouthed glass Mason jar, pushing down on the vegetables with a wooden spoon or your fingertips with as much force as you can until the level of liquid rises above the vegetables. Put a smaller jar inside the glass jar to keep the vegetables submerged. Cover with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band. The curtido needs to breathe.

You can see the small juice glass inside the jar if you look carefully. Note how all the vegetables are submerged in liquid. Now all you need is a tea towel and a rubber band to cover.

Leave out at room temperature for about 3 to 5 days. Check once daily to be sure the vegetables stay submerged, pushing down on them if needed. If you see a frothy residue on the surface, simply skim it off. Taste daily starting on the 2nd day. The curtido is ready when it tastes good to you. When it’s to your liking, fasten the lid and transfer it to the refrigerator. It will last months in the refrigerator. It doesn’t really go bad but will soften over time.

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6 Comments

  1. MoJo
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify. This recipe does not use any vinegar?

    • Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      That’s true. It’s wild fermented like sauerkraut

  2. Dalia
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    This is just what I have been looking for. (I am trying to figure out more vegan ways to ingest probiotics.)

    I do have one question: Could you just use a paper towel to cover the jar instead of a tea towel?

    • Posted October 31, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Dalia, yes, you could use a paper towel. The idea is to keep fruit flies out.

  3. Stephanie
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I know this post is “ancient”, but I just wanted to say thanks! My man is now firmly convinced that we need more curtido in our lives. I’d actually never tried it before either, but I’ve wanted to give it a shot after reading about pupusas. I guess now that i’ve got the curtido stocked up, I’ll have to try my hand at pupusas, too… :)

  4. Brendon
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    What is the liquid? you never mention what it is, but someone commented that is is not vinegar. Would it be water then?

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