Friday, November 19, 2010

Beet-Cabbage Salad

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know I have a thing for fermented mixtures of vegetables. Something about semi-noxious fumes coming from big bowls of salted veggies makes me happy in ways that few other things do (it's probably partially a romantic notion, partially a food security issue). And the bigger the bowl (or vat or crock) the better. Fermented things have a way of living for a long time. I recently gave away my last jar or purple sauerkraut, which was made at the beginning of summer 2009, and the flavor was incredible. If you make a batch of sauerkraut, make it big and set aside a couple jars for later.

Now, one thing I don't do to my ferments is can them. I firmly believe that if you're going to bother fermenting something, you ought to be concerned about the little organisms living inside it. That's sort of the whole point. I mean, if you don't mind having all those good-for-your-gut bacteria cooked out of your sauerkraut or kimchi you can buy jars of it, which have already been conveniently pasteurized and sterilized. With homemade sauerkraut you can control the amount of salt, be completely sure of the origins of your cabbage, and you can add whatever you like. If you have a root cellar or a cool basement, keep your vast stores of ferments there. If not, keep them in the fridge, and plan accordingly. If you don't tend to have much expendable space in there, make only a quart or two at a time. It's easy enough to make on a regular basis.

This particular ferment is another "quick pickle." Wash and trim 4 large red beets. Boil them until fork-tender and cool until you can handle them. Reserve the beet juice. Slip the rough skins off (or use the dull side of a knife to scrape off the skins), and cut the beets into 1/4" strips. Thinly slice a medium-sized red cabbage. You want the pieces to be bite-sized or at least manageable. Also roughly chop several cloves of garlic--I'll leave the quantity up to you. Mix the beets, cabbage, and garlic in a large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over this mixture. In a small saucepan, bring to a boil 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup reserved beet juice, 1/4 cup sugar, 10 peppercorns, 6 cloves, 2 bay leaves, and any other additions you might like (star anise, caraway seeds, allspice berries, crushed red pepper...). Immediately take off the heat and let cool a bit--no need to let it cool all the way. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Allow this to sit at room temperature for several days to a week, keeping the veggies underneath the liquid (you can use a plate that's weighted down). You'll start to smell that fermented aroma. Refrigerate in jars, making sure the liquid is above the cabbage mixture (you can add water if the liquid isn't high enough).


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good recipe - I love beets and kraut anyway.
What's your opinion of fermenting with whey in the brine? It's used in almost all the Nourishing Traditions recipes and my veg ferments have always turned out really well; I think the whey facilitates a good acidity?

meg said...

Whey ferments are awesome! If I had whey at my disposal right now I'd be using it. I think the whey is for fermented veggies what a sourdough starter is for bread--you've already got a lot of healthy organisms starting to work in there, so it makes the fermentation process easier. There's also lots of natural sugar in whey--great for feeding those wild yeasts and bacterias.