Locavore Cabbage Salad & Quick-Pickled Cabbage

Locavore Cabbage Salad

This is a really popular salad in Russia. The trick to making raw cabbage and carrots more digestible and tasty is to essentially make instant pickles out of them, by kneading them with salt and then draining away the salty juices. Prepared in this way, “raw” cabbage can be enjoyed even by people who claim not to like cabbage. Another cool thing about this salad is that, besides being inexpensive and delicious, it’s a way of eating vitamin packed fresh raw vegetables locally. Because lets face it, if you live in a non-tropical climate the only local vegetables able to persist through the winter raw - either in the field/cold frame or in storage - are those in the hardy brassica family (cabbages, kale, etc.) and root vegetables. You may be able to find some local baby greens or tomatoes grown in high-tech hydroponic installations, but those are in another category altogether given how costly and energy-intensive they are. So, without further ado, the cabbage salad:

½ head, about a pound, green or red cabbage (or combination), finely shredded (mandolin or food processor works best)
1 or 2 carrots, also finely shredded (optional)
2-3 Tbsp kosher salt if you plan to rinse, or just ½ tsp if not planning to rinse
4 Tbsp olive or sunflower oil
½ tsp ground black pepper and/or 1/3 cup finely minced fresh parsley or dill or another herb
Optional: a big squeeze of lemon juice or a tablespoon of cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey
Optional: 2 Tbsp walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a large mixing bowl sprinkle salt over the shredded cabbage and carrots and with your hands toss and squeeze/wring the salad for about 2 minutes until lots of juice comes out. This wringing out with salt bursts the tough cell walls and makes the cabbage and carrots more eater-friendly. Then rinse very briefly in cold tap water and drain well, squeezing out any excess moisture (a large strainer is handy for this, or just take fistfuls of cabbage and squeeze before transferring to the salad bowl). Taste to make sure the salt level is good – you may either need to rinse a bit more or add a dash more salt if you over-rinsed. Or, if rinsing seems like too much hassle, use much less salt in the beginning but still squeeze thoroughly with your hands and let it sit. Add vinegar if using, mix and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. After the salad “rests”, drain away any new juice. Mix in any herbs and/or pepper, oil and serve! Stores covered in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.

Quick Pickled Cabbage

This natural quick fermentation method has been used in Eastern Europe for centuries. It’s light on salt and without vinegar or added sugar; the result crisper and contains more active enzymes than sour kraut. The only absolutely essential ingredients are cabbage, carrots, and non-iodized salt. The cabbage that will be the crunchiest and keep the longest is the really firm winter variety of green cabbage, but any green or red cabbage can be used and will be ready in just a few days. It can then be refrigerated in jars up to 2 months (that’s why I usually make a double batch). Serve the cabbage as a salad, with a dash of olive oil and fresh herbs.

1 medium-large head of green cabbage, about 2.2 lb, very finely shredded
2 large carrots, also shredded
1.5-2% salt by weight (in this case about 8 tsp kosher salt or 4-5 tsp non-iodized fine sea salt)
1 cup plain yogurt or 1-2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1 cup water (yogurt not only introduces helpful bacteria but brings acidity to the desired 0.6% or Ph 3.5)

Flavor options:
1 Tbsp caraway or dill or coriander seeds
3 Tbsp raisins or fresh or dried cranberries

A food processor is the easiest way to finely shred cabbage and carrots. Discard the cabbage core & stem. Keep several unblemished outer cabbage leaves for lining the bottom of the container and covering the surface of the fermenting cabbage (optional). In a large non-reactive container (glass, ceramic, enamel, hard food-grade plastic) sprinkle salt over the shredded vegetables and with your hands mix and squeeze/knead for 2-5 minutes until lots of juice comes out; a wooden muddler or rod rolling pin can also be used. This wringing out with salt bursts the tough cell walls and gets rid of trapped air; you need lots of juice to ensuring successful fermentation. Your container should not be more than 3/4 full at this stage. Mix in any other ingredients. Punch the cabbage down with your fist to get any remaining air bubbles our and get as much juice as possible to rise to the surface; cover loosely with a few cabbage leaves, if using. Place a clean plate with a clean gallon jug of water on top of the cabbage to ensure that its surface stays submerged in juice. Cover loosely with a plastic bag or kitchen towel and place in a safe, warm area of the kitchen (like on top of the refrigerator). Check after 1-2 days that there’s at least ½ inch of juice completely covering the surface (add water with a bit of lemon juice or citric acid if there isn’t enough juice); wiggle the weight and poke a fork or a chopstick along the sides to release any trapped bubbles. It’s normal for the juice/brine to get cloudy and frothy at some point, but after a few days it should clear up and recede. Taste the cabbage after 3 days; it should be ready, but if it’s cool in your kitchen it may need another day or two. When ready, use a fork to transfer cabbage and remaining juices into jars with tight fitting lids, without packing it in. Keep in the refrigerator. Enjoy over the next month or two!


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