What's In Season at the Farmers Markets: Sexy Cabbage (No, Really) + A Sauerkraut Recipe

Savoy cabbage from Finely Organics at the Hollywood market
Savoy cabbage from Finely Organics at the Hollywood market
Felicia Friesema

Cabbage is fucking sexy. So says Facebook. The Amateur Gourmet and the Rosati Family Winery in Mendocino concur. It's easy to agree, thus elevating this once lowly, leafy brassica from a dense vegetal bowling ball to a wintertime celebration. Cabbage doesn't unseat the fig from the top of the sexy ladder. Not yet, anyway.

Well-planned shade houses enable year-round access to locally grown cabbages here in L.A., but it's when the weather cools that the flavor transforms from what we can only describe as burpish to crispy sweet with a natural, mustardy spiciness.

Personally, we think the true sexiness of the cabbage, if you can call it that, comes from its usability. It just works. Soups get heft. Salads get depth. And it carries sweet, savory, spicy, and salty with unmatched ease. Pair it with any meat. Make it the main (that Rosati recipe is luscious). But our favored application? Fermentation in its own brine. A simple German kraut is great, but Chinese suan cai and Korean kimchi are just as easy.

Master Food Preserver and executive chef of Farmer's Kitchen Ernest Miller (who you can hear on this weekend's episode of Good Food) has a tried and tested sauerkraut recipe that he not only teaches to his preservation students but produces in bulk in his restaurant for his breakfasts. The air-locked, glass fermentation jars he sells prevent yeast growth, which means a hassle free, no-skimming-needed process. But you can also use a regular, non-reactive, food-safe container like a ceramic crock or cambro.

Sauerkraut

From: Ernest Miller

Note: For the best sauerkraut, use firm heads of fresh cabbage. Late variety

cabbages make superior sauerkraut. Shred cabbage and start kraut between 24 and

48 hours after harvest. If making large quantities, work with about 5 pounds of cabbage at a time.

Makes: Use the following quantities for each gallon capacity of your container.

5 lbs cabbage

3 tbsp canning or pickling salt, or equivalent weight of kosher salt

1. Discard outer leaves. Rinse heads under cold running water and drain. Cut heads in quarters and remove cores. Shred or slice to a thickness of a quarter.

2. Put cabbage in a suitable fermentation container and add three tablespoons of salt. Mix thoroughly, using clean hands. Pack firmly until salt draws juices from cabbage.

3. Repeat shredding, salting, and packing until all cabbage is in the container. Be sure

it is deep enough so that its rim is at least 4 or 5 inches above the cabbage. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the container. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Alternatively, fill a gallon freezer bag with brine (1½ tablespoons of salt per quart of water) and use as a weight, ensuring that all cabbage is submerged. If juice does not cover cabbage, add boiled and cooled brine.

4. Cover container with a clean bath towel. Store at 70º to 75ºF while fermenting. At temperatures between 70º and 75ºF, kraut will be fully fermented in about 3 to 4 weeks; at 60º to 65ºF, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60ºF, kraut may not ferment. Above 75ºF, kraut may become soft.

5. Check the container several times a week and promptly remove surface scum or mold. Fully fermented kraut may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months.


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