A bright red cabbage arrived in our veg box the other week. I’m not a huge cabbage fan unless it’s fermented (or if you use it to color Easter eggs!) I was feeling light and springy. I wanted something colorful. And purple is my favorite color. So I thought, why not make a bright purple pickle?
When I say ‘pickle’, I mean pickle in the traditional sense … a naturally fermented vegetable loaded with friendly bacteria, and a nice tangy crunch. Yum. No vinegar allowed!
If you’ve never fermented veggies before, it’s EASY. Learn all the details here in the Super Veg post. You only need veggies, and salt. Possibly water. Chopping the veggies is the most involved step. Then the veggies and salt just sit in the jar while the naturally occurring bacteria get to work fermenting them into healthy deliciousness. (Plus, you’ll feel like a bit of a mad scientist with a jar fermenting on your countertop…)
And WHY would you want to do this, aside from enjoying the taste? Because the friendly bacteria in fermented vegetables are great for your digestive health! Just a spoonful of a fermented veg everyday acts as a boost to your immune system and your digestion. And learning to make simple ferments is a method of food preservation that has been used for generations. No chemical preservatives here. Just natural goodness.
A low-stress food project.
One reason I love fermenting veggies is because it’s so flexible. Choose the veggies you like. Chop them to the thickness you like. Add some spices you like. And then just let it sit around fermenting until you like the taste! Just try a little bit and see what suits you. When you love the flavor, put it in the fridge to slow things down.
I hear from a lot of readers that they love these projects – but never make time to do them. If that sounds like you, fermenting some veg might be just your project! After the initial 15-30 minutes of chopping and packing, that’s it! It just sits on your countertop. And I think it’s fun to taste how the veggies change every day. (Hmmm, maybe I’m entertained by strange things?) It’s a satisfying, simple and healthy project. Follow the recipe once or twice, then get creative and make a blend that you love!
Mostly Purple Pickle
What you need:
1 red cabbage
1 small green cabbage
1 raw beetroot
zest of one lemon
1 Tb peppercorns
2 Tb salt
A wide-mouthed crock or jar to hold all the veggies with 1-2″ space at the top.
A sturdy glass or smaller jar which fits into the mouth of the larger crock/jar, to push down veggies
1) Clean your jars and your hands. We want to create an environment where the good bacteria flourish, so we don’t want to introduce anything else into the mix.
2) Weigh all of your vegetables together. You want to use about 3 Tb. of salt per 5 lb of veggies. I had about 3lb of veg, so I used 2 Tb of salt. If you don’t have a scale, don’t worry, fermentation is not an exact science. Just shake some salt on after each addition of veggies, aiming for about 2-3 Tb of salt total.
3) Chop or shred your cabbage. How thinly you slice them is a personal choice. This time I made quite chunky, sturdy slices, which retained their crunch. In the past, I’ve used thin shreds which go quite soft like traditional sauerkraut. Experiment!
4) Slice the beetroot into batons (beetroots are juicy! So by keeping the slices thick we limit the amount of liquid released … there’s always a chance that with too much beetroot juice, you might end up with an alcoholic juice, which is not the goal!)
5) Peel the zest off one lemon and slice into thin strips.
6) Layer the ingredients (including the peppercorns) in your crock or large jar. After every 2 handfuls of veg, add some salt. At some point you will think the jar is full. No so! Grab a wooden spoon or your fist, and push down on the veggies to compress them. Really pack them in! Then keep adding more veggies and salt.
If at some point your mix doesn’t fit, pound it with a spoon and then wait 15-30 min for the veggies to soften and try again. It’s really amazing how many veggies you can get into one jar, so just pack them tightly.
7) Finally, when all the veggies are in the jar, put the sturdy glass or small jar into the top and push down, packing the veggies in even more. Cover this whole thing with a dishcloth and set aside. For the first 24 hours, push down on the glass/small jar whenever you think of it, to help the liquid come out of the vegetables.
8) After 24 hours, check the veggies. Push down on the glass/small jar – there should be liquid coming over the top of the veggies. The liquid needs to completely cover all the veggies – or the exposed vegetables will start to grow mold.
If there isn’t enough liquid in your jar, then add a bit of brine (1 Tb. salt dissolved in 1 cup of water) and pour that over the veggies until they are covered.
9) Now just leave the veggies alone (covered with a dishcloth) and let the fermentation begin! I start tasting my veggies after 3 days. Just taste a bit everyday and see how you like the taste – it will get stronger and tangier over time. For my purple pickle, I left it for 10 days (in winter, so it was cold). In the summer, you might only need 4-5 days.
10) When you like the taste of the veggies, you can either put a lid on the jar and put it directly in the refrigerator or you can repack it into smaller jars (this is what I do, since we have a small fridge!) I’ve noticed that fermented veggies last longer if they are not exposed to the air. So I pack my veggies into 2-3 smaller jars, making sure they remain covered with liquid.
Fermented vegetables will keep for ages in the refrigerator at least a few months if they are covered in liquid. Traditionally people stored crocks of sauerkraut for eating all winter in the basement – so if yours are in the refrigerator they will be fine. But as always, use common sense! If they grow mold or start to smell very different you should throw them out and start again. (Technically, many websites say you can just scrape off the moldy parts and eat the sauerkraut underneath – totally up to you if you want to do this. I tend to just throw it out and start again because cabbage is inexpensive!)
Have you ever made fermented veggies? What is your favorite flavor combination? Let us know in the comments!