I have been a curious bystander of fermented foods for some time. It appears to be trendy these days, which is interesting since it is a process that goes back to the beginning of time.
Fermentation was not only used as a food preserver, but also as support for intestinal and overall health. Fermented vegetables have all the nutrition of raw vegetables, with the added bonus of the good bacteria and probiotics that are formed in the process.
This month I was invited to a culinary “hands on” food preserving class at Melissa’s Produce along with other Southern California bloggers. When we arrive the first thing we saw was this beautiful display of edible art. Can you picture these in your kitchen? I was coveting these jars of fermented flavor, and couldn’t wait to make my own.
From left to right: Fermented Brined Olives, Kimchi, Kosher Dill Green Tomatoes, Kosher Dill Pickles, Giardiniara, Red Cabbage Sauerkraut, Curtido, Crudite (carrots, snap peas, snow peas, & celery)
Our teacher for the day was Chef Ernest Miller, who is also a historian, educator, consultant and speaker. He has been making fermented foods for more than 12 years. He is also lead instructor for the Master Food Preservers of Los Angeles County and founder of Rancho La Merced Provisions – manufacturer of one of the best fermentation kits on the market. I was so excited to absorb some his knowledge.
Chef Miller provided interesting historical information on fermentation, including facts about the process and tips to ensure success. He advised keeping our scraps when peeling or trimming produce, sealing them in an airtight bag and freezing them for later. These remnants are perfect for making stock, no scrap left behind.
Meanwhile, I was just starring at the all of the beauty in these jars.
When it came time for us to roll up our sleeves and dig in, we were able to choose between making kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) or curtido (El Salvadorian tart coleslaw – pronounced coor-TEE-doh), I choose the later because I had never tried it before.
We each had a cutting station with all the trimmings laid out for us. We chopped all of our veggies and put them in a non-reactive bowl with the spices, then we sprinkled them with salt to extract the juices.
We packed 2.5 pounds of vegetables into this fermentation jar (see note below) and added 3% brine to cover. The hardest part of the whole process was waiting one week before I could enjoy my curitido.
Note: To make this process easier Chef Ernest has developed a modern Air-Lock Lacto-Fermentation Kit from Rancho La Merced Provisions in 1.5 or 3 liter sizes for $42-$58. You can order online at Etsy or purchase at Whole Foods. It comes with a booklet to help you get started.
For more on food preservation go to National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Melissa’s Produce served curtido with El Salvadoran pupusas which is the traditional manner in which it is served.
I chose to serve the curtido on grilled corn tortillas with julienne cut Granny Smith apples, queso fresco (fresh cheese) and dollop of labne (a yogurt based cheese). I’m pretty sure I broke international culinary borders with this combination, but I really liked the tangy, crunchy, salty & sweet combination.
I also like to eat curtido straight out of the jar.
- 1 3/4 pound cabbage shredded (white, purple, Savoy, or Napa)
- 1/2 pound carrot julienned or grated
- 1/2 red onion julienned
- 1 jalapeno chile minced (remove seeds if you prefer)
- 3/4 ounce salt canning, pickling, kosher or sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 ounce salt canning, pickling, kosher or sea salt
- 1 quart water
To make brine, mix salt and water, stir and set aside.
Discard outer leaves of cabbage. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Cut in quarters and remove core. Shred or slice in 1/4″ slivers.
Put cabbage in a mixing bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. With clean hands, pack the cabbage mixture firmly into your clean 1.5 liter fermentation jar until salt draws juices from the cabbage. Be sure the jar is filled to the “max” line, but no higher. Place your clean, notched weighting jar on the cabbage and press down. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. If juice does not cover the cabbage, add brine and replace weighting jar. Seal your jar. Gently twist the airlock into place and fill the airlock with brine to the fill line. Set on your counter out of sunlight.
Curtido will be finished in 5 days when stored at 70° to 80° F or in 7 to 9 days, when storing at 60° to 65° F. You may allow your curtido to ferment longer, if you wish. Remove curtido from the fermentation jar and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for several months.
Caution: If the curtido becomes soft, slimy or develops a disagreeable odor, discard.
To ensure accuracy, the salt should be weighed instead of being measured by volume.
Much appreciation to Melissa’s Produce and Robert Schuller for sponsoring such a rewarding event and delicious luncheon. And thank you to Chef Ernest Miller for your dedication and hard work making this class possible.
If you are not yet convinced to eat fermented food, maybe Chef Miller’s sense of humor in this video will help.
If it can “grow hair on your head and put vigor in your bed”, what else might it do?
…and then, she paused for thought, and smiled.
Cathy, this is a fabulous post — you make curtido shine! STUNNING images. So much fun fermenting with you! 😉 xo V
Cathy | She Paused 4 Thought
Thanks Valentina. Making curtido photogenic was a challenge. At least it tastes picture perfect. LOL!
What a fun post! I’m so glad you shared this! <3
Thanks Sara for all of your help in class. I learned so much. I am currently fermenting sweet potatoes. I think I am now addicted to fermented food!
Beautiful. Yum! You’ve inspired me, would it be good to start with kimchi?
Great Nan! Kimchi is an excellent place to start.
Check out the recipe others made in class at these links.
Punk Domestics (@punkdomestics)
I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!
I LOVE Punk Domestics! What an honor to have you here. I will submit this. I am currently making fermented sweet potatoes and can’t wait to see how it will turn out.
Ooh, the sweet potatoes sound yummy. Love the pics, Cathy!
Thanks Maggie! The sweet potatoes are gorgeous. I will let you know on the taste.
Wow, I have been wanting to try making sauerkraut but have been a little squeamish (I make pickles and turnips but they’re not fermented). Your photos are jaw-droppingly gorgeous!
It is easier than you think. If you are making pickles you are half way there.
Great post Cathy! You captured it beautifully with your photos.
I love cortido. I have it most Sunday’s piled on top of a pupusa at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I’ll have to try making it myself. GREG
Greg, you will laugh at how easy it is. The hardest part is waiting a week to eat it.
Your photos always reel me in! Never liked fermented food before… but may have to give this a try!
Cheri, when fermented food is served with something that compliments the flavor, it is delightful. Eating it on it’s own, is a little more of an acquired taste. I am currently trying to eat 5 oz. of fermented food a day. Currently I am failing miserably, but that is my goal I am will continue to reach for.
Christina @ Christina's Cucina
I love kimchi and I adore pickles so I think I’m up for Curtido! It sounds so enticing to my taste buds, and my eyes are popping out of my head with your gorgeous pics! I think I’d also like to eat it out of the jar! 🙂
Christina, if you love kimchi, you will love Curtido.
lynne @ cookandbemerry
I love eating kimchi right out of the jar. It’s great diet food. Now I have to try your Curtido. I am looking forward to the lime/cumin combo.
LOL Lynne, I never thought of kimchi as diet food, just healthy. I think you would love the Curtido. You will have to check out my recipe for Lacto-fermented spicy sweet potatoes as well. My new personal favorite. http://www.shepaused4thought.com/sweet-potatoes/
That ‘fermented fun’ picture with all the jars from left to right has to be one of the most aesthetic looking fermenting pictures I’ve ever seen! Love it! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe, can’t wait to try this at home and report back once I have. Hopefully mine will look as good as yours!
Thanks Billy, I have Chef Ernest Miller to thank for those deliciously filled jars. Please let me know how your Curtido goes.
Is an airlock necessary? Is there an alternative?
Thank you in advance for your response.
Hi Antonio, I am new to fermenting, but this link might be able to help you. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/container_cover.html
I have just checked on my batch and its soft under the top layers . Is this ok. I have had it fermeting for 9 days.
Hi Nadine, as long as it tastes good you are ok.