More than three years ago I began a search to learn how to make real sauerkraut—naturally-fermented sauerkraut. Many months later I discovered and signed up for a one night class (in Brooklyn, New York of all places). I found another class a month later in Bozeman that taught me a number of other ferments. For the last two years I’ve been making giardiniera and white kimchi, fig jam, mustard, kanji and more. All the while on the lookout for a special sauerkraut recipe to rival my favorites. I believe I’ve found it in this recipe for curtido.
Curtido (pronounced kuɾˈtiðo) is definitely a kraut as it’s mainly cabbage. Though it also contains carrots, purple onions, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. These additional ingredients give curtido great depth and complexity of flavor. It is tangy and slightly sweet. Curtido makes a very tasty addition to sandwiches, quesadillas, savory pancakes and even swirled into a bowl of lentil soup.
“This is so delicious and has so much vitality. The best sauerkraut I’ve ever eaten.” Paula K.
This curtido recipe is lacto-fermented. Through the fermentation process lactic acid is created as a by-product. Lactic acid accounts for the tanginess and fills curtido with probiotics. These are the good-for-our-gut bacteria so important for our digestion and overall excellent health.
El Salvadoran kraut
Though originating in El Salvador, other Central American and some Latin American countries enjoy curtido as well. Pupusas, traditional Salvadoran masa harina-based sandwiches, are always served topped with curtido. And sides of curtido are served with most meals. That’s how I eat it, too, as a side with most everything.
My new fermentation crock
I’ve been eyeing this beautiful, pricey, Polish fermentation crock for about 2 years. Then late June, I received an email with an “exclusive offer” to buy the crock for half price with free shipping. I did. Within the week the crock arrived at my doorstep.
This fermentation crock has a “moat” around the top that you fill with water. With the lid in place oxygen stays out and carbon dioxide gets released. The perfect conditions for lactic-acid fermentation. And except for its heaviness, this crock’s easy to use.
A couple of months later the out-of-stock special weights arrived. No problem really, as I was also waiting for locally grown cabbage to arrive at our Saturday market.
With weights in hand and this huge, exceptionally sweet 7½ pound cabbage in my fridge, my first batch of tangy, sweet curtido soon followed.
Ready to practice the art of fermentation?
Homemade curtido is a great place to begin your journey. Please read some of my previous posts for fermentation basics. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that fermentation is easy and straightforward. Every bite a taste sensation and a boost to our health.
- White Kimchi – Step-by-Step
- Fig Jam with Yogurt Cheese & Apples
- Giardiniera – Your Next Favorite Ferment
Here are some other great resources for information on fermentation and supplies.
- Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods, Wardeh Harmon
- Cultures for Health
- The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz
This may be the most flavorful sauerkraut you’ll ever eat. With the addition of garlic, onions, oregano and red pepper flakes, tangy and slightly sweet curtido has an unexpected deep and complex flavor. To make curtido spicier, add more red pepper flakes or even a thinly sliced and seeded Serrano pepper.
Thank you Cultures for Health and Wardeh Harmon for inspiring this recipe.
Makes 3 quarts Printer-Friendly Recipe
Active Time 1 hour
Fermentation Time 10 days to about 2 weeks.
4 pounds green cabbage, cored and finely shredded (4 mm food processor slicing disc)
1 1/3 pounds purple onions, thinly sliced (4 mm food processor slicing disc)
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (2 mm food processor slicing disc)
¾ pound carrots, grated coarsely
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons high quality salt, i.e., Celtic or Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo or other red pepper flakes
½ cup whey (the liquid strained from yogurt with live and active cultures)
- Place the shredded cabbage, sliced onions, garlic and grated carrots in a large mixing bowl. Toss with the oregano, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Let it sit for 30 minutes so the vegetables begin releasing their juices.
- Knead the vegetables with your hands to remove more liquid from them.
- Stir in the whey.
- Pack the curtido and its juices in a one-gallon fermentation crock. If you use glass jars, see instructions below. Use a pounder or your fist to both tightly pack the vegetables and release enough of their juices to completely cover the vegetables.
- With a ceramic crock like mine, fill no more than half to two-thirds full to ensure you can fit the large weights into the crock.
- Top the curtido with a large outer leaf or two of cabbage or a few fresh grape leaves. Put the weights in place. Press down on them so they, too are covered in brine.
- Pour ½ cup of water into the “moat” around the top of the crock. Put the lid in place to create an airtight seal.
- Keep the crock at room temperature. Check after 24 hours to be sure the weights and vegetables are submerged in the brine. Add more weights if necessary.
- Depending upon the temperature, curtido will ferment in about 7-14 days. Begin tasting after a week to have a baseline. If you prefer a stronger taste, let curtido ferment longer. The texture becomes softer and the flavor becomes more concentrated as the days go by. I enjoyed the tangy flavor and crisp texture at 10 days.
- Transfer the curtido from the crock to jars and refrigerate to slow down the fermentation process.
- In step 6, pack 2 half-gallon jars, leaving at least 2 inches of airspace between the top of the vegetables covered in brine and the top of the jar.
- Use glass or ceramic weights and/or a small jar filled with enough water to keep all the vegetables submerged in the brine.
- Cover the jars with a large plastic bag, sealed with a rubber band. Store the jars at room temperature.
- Burp the jars daily.
- When you love the taste, remove the weights, seal the jars and transfer them to the refrigerator.