Ever massaged a cabbage leaf into a deliciously dopey torpor? You’d be forgiven if it wasn’t on your to-do list this afternoon. I’m here to tell you that it should be.
Pickling and fermenting have caused witchy hysteria from Berlin to Bantry: kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, vinegar, kombucha and sourdough. All these funky ferments send your flavour radar into another stratosphere. But that’s not the best part. Fermenting your own fresh produce means less food waste during Lock Down, less shopping while we’re trying to avoid public places, and more trips to the loo. Yup. Let’s get to that last point swiftly.
Your gut is a jungle of microbiota who love a good party. These disco dudes feed on fructooligosaccharides (FOS), fibre and lacto-fermented foods like this ginger slaw. The trick to keeping your digestive health all tickety-poo (sorry) is to crowd out the nasty challengers and the gate-crashing pathogens.
The good news? It’s much easier than it sounds. Try making this purple party slaw. There’s also this video I made to show you just how easy kimchi is to make at home.
1 red cabbage, rinsed and cored
1 tablespoon fine Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
Shred the cabbage in whatever way you fancy. I use a nifty blade on my food processor, which probably bruises the edges a little but I’m no kitchen angel. If you download a good podcast, shredding finely with a sharp knife won’t feel so laborious. The finer the shredding, the better the result.
In your largest ceramic bowl, tumble the shredded cabbage with the salt and ginger. Leave for 2 hours (not an imperative step, but great advice for lazy people. The cabbage becomes softer and juicier to work with! Red cabbage takes longer to submit than, say, Napa cabbage which has a much higher water content and demands less massaging. Feel free to do a combination of cabbages).
When you return, massage the salt into the cabbage for 10 minutes before decanting into a very large glass jar (or several jars).
Press the cabbage down firmly inside your jar, encouraging the natural fresh salty juices to come to the top of the cabbage. Now place a weight on top of the cabbage to keep it submerged in its juices. I use a clean stone, which works theatrically well. My kids love this and anoint it with a spell.
Seal the jar loosely and keep at room temperature for three days, where it will fizz, gurgle and burp. Two days is loads during hot summer spells. You might like to place the jar(s) on a plate to avoid renegade juices.
Taste and decide whether it hits the spot. If yes, transfer to the fridge, where it will happily keep for months submerged in its lovejuice. If not, keep it on the kitchen counter for another 12 hours.