Turkish fermented cabbage

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Remember that heatwave we were having a couple of weeks ago? 95 degrees in new england. uh huh. of course my early cabbage decided to sing in unison “we’re done, come & get us, now!”

I kind of have a rule; when vegetables sing – i dance. as you can imagine, it gets kind of crazy around here right about now. anywayz…

i didn’t grow a kabillion-kazillian pounds of cabbage to eat coleslaw all summer. this cabbage is supposed to get us through that long locavorian boat-ride called winter. sweltering heat or no, these heads were gettin’ pickled!

(in a passionate preserver’s logic – i quickly surmised that since it gets very hot in istanbul, and they have pickle carts everywhere, they must know something about warm-weather fermenting). right?

Turkish fermented cabbage adapted from the joy of pickling by linda ziedrich

4 lbs cored & trimmed white head cabbage, shredded
6 tablespoons sea salt
3 tablespoons minced garlic (i used mid-summer scapes, heads only)
3 tablespoons minced ginger
3 tablespoons aleppo pepper (or korean, or 2 tbls hungarian paprika & 1 tbls cayenne powder)
1 & 1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 & 1/2 cups water
you can use gallon, 1/2 gallon or quart 2 piece screw cap or wire-bail jarsyield: approximately 2 & 1/2 quarts1. to shred cabbage you can use this or you can use a knife. get it as fine as you can either way. once shredded, toss in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons salt. you will see the cabbage begin to ‘sweat’ immediately (well, i said it was hot, didn’t i?) place a plate over the cabbage to give it a little pressure and let sit for 3 hours at room temperature.

2. drain the cabbage in a colander, rinse with cold water and drain again. mix in the minced garlic & ginger, the pepper and the sugar.

A note about summer garlic: if you grow your own, let the scapes stay on through mid-summer – until the heads are ready even – and use them as you need them. they get stronger as they go and the garlic heads (just pulled up yesterday) don’t seem to mind. it’s a great way to enjoy local garlic all summer.

3. pack the mixture into clean and dried jars (i actually worked with double the amount of this recipe and a very large wire bail jar). dissolve the remaining 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 & 1/2 cups of cool water. pour enough of this brine over the cabbage to cover it. try and leave a good 3 inches of headspace (space between top of cabbage & top of jar) in each jar.

4. in the art of fermenting you want to allow the gasses to escape but prevent a lot of air from getting in. if you are using a two piece screw cap – simply screw it on lightly. if you are using the european wire bail jar you can actually take the wire bail apart and just rest the glass lid on top – (as i did in the top photo). don’t worry you can easily re-assemble the wire bail.

5. the jar should be kept out of sunlight throughout the fermenting process. a cotton kitchen towel & elastic work nicely:(is it me, or does he wear it well?)

6. once a day for 10 to 14 days take the top off and give it a good stir with a very clean spoon. if you do this daily, you don’t have to bother with the weighting down as in the traditional sauerkraut method. try and get some of the bottom on top and the top on the bottom with your stirring – nothing to be exact about tho.

ideally the temperature should be between 65 and 72 degrees. as i said, i did this in the middle of the heat wave. there were days over 90 so i had to bring it down to the cellar – where the temp was around 76 and rising. i would say that there were a few days where it was in 80 degree temperatures.

but have no fear because on about the 2nd or 3rd day gassy bubblies will happen. there will be a lot o’ action in those jars. you may even need to switch out the towel due to a bit of leakage, depending on how crazy things get in there. on about the 6th day the raw veggie smell is all but forgotten, and the most delicious aroma replaces it. you will know it’s done when things settle down and the bubbles have subsided.

the warmer the weather, the faster the fermentation happens. my batch was full-on done at the 10 day mark. don’t be afraid to taste! if you like it more sour, then leave it another day or two.

7. once you’ve determined it’s doneness you can place the jars directly in the fridge as is, or re- dispense to different size jars. i like to do the fermenting in 1 jar if possible, and then transfer to quarts and pints. plastic caps are nice here, as the jars are now stored in the fridge. this will last well for 6 months or more in the fridge. do remember to label your jars with date & contents.

I love this fermented cabbage, it is quite the cross between sauerkraut & kimchi, goes well with everything, and i fear that my big winter plans are foiled by our summer appetites! we’ve been serving it cold along side all manner of turkish & middle eastern meze – with a side of feta, and hummus, etc.

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