The author was Alissa Timoshkina, and she talked from London about her new cookbook, Salt and Time, a beautiful book with crisp pictures of her homeland Siberia, and traditional recipes from the region, as well as those with her own modern twist. It was dreamy. So, I bought it, with a gift card no less! I was intrigued by the borsch (no ‘t’ at the end for her version), but had to make some red sauerkraut beforehand. It was a great way to get some pent-up existential angst out of my system.
Red Sauerkraut with Garlic & Chili
-from Salt & Time, by Alissa Timoshkina
(Footnotes by me)
Makes a quart-sized (1 liter) jar
1 red cabbage, core removed
Salt (the desired ratio is 1 tablespoon for every 2 ¼ lb cabbage, so the exact amount depends on the weight of your cabbage)
2-4 large garlic cloves, grated (I increased garlic from her suggested 2 cloves, because I always do)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or 1 small Habanero pepper, finely chopped
Before you do anything put on some food gloves!*
Thinly slice the cabbage into long strips, preferably on a mandolin or using a food processor. Place in a large mixing bowl, add the salt, and massage it into the cabbage quite aggressively for about 5 minutes.** This process is quite physically demanding and oddly therapeutic at the same time. You know the cabbage has surrendered when lots of juice comes out and the flesh becomes very soft, yet still crunchy.*** Add the garlic and chili pepper, and massage for another minute.
Pack the cabbage tightly into a sterilized quart-size preserving jar (putting it through a hot dishwasher should do the job) **** in layers, making sure there are no air bubbles or gaps as you pack down each layer; you can use a special wooden tamper for fermentation or simply use your fist to do this. Continue until the jar is almost full and the cabbage is submerged in its own juice. Weigh it down with a glass ramekin. Make sure you leave a 2-inch (5 cm) gap at the top or the jar will overflow once the process of fermentation begins.
Close the jar tightly and set aside out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 10-14 days so the salt and time can do their magic (naturally, things ferment a lot faster in the summer).***** It’s best to stand the jar inside a bowl in case of spillage. Make sure to check it every day, opening the jar to let the cabbage “burp” or release its gases, and pressing the cabbage down into the brine.******
Taste the cabbage after 10 days and leave to ferment for longer if needed. Once you are happy with the taste, transfer the jar to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. It will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
Notes from Shorelandia:
*Pay attention to this, the author uses an exclamation point for a reason: put on some food gloves! Then make a clean-room, like Dexter. Only you’re not going to kill anything, in fact you're practically a necromancer! Listen to this after 5 minutes of aggressive love – It’s alive!***
**Try to contain your production area to one space, or you’ll find little bits of red cabbage all over your kitchen, leaving behind a kiss of blue-purple. And why isn’t it called purple cabbage? It’s not red at all! I wonder if I could cut a shape out of the cabbage, like a star, and leave it on my forearm to make a temporary tattoo...
*****Then clean your kitchen if you didn’t manage to contain the cabbage in your workspace like I suggested earlier. I fear I’m going to be finding dried bits of purple for years to come, unexpectedly. Like the bits of shining greenish-blue tinsel from the sexy mermaid’s tail we kept finding for about a dozen years after she attended one of our first Halloween parties.
******Don’t forget to burp! If you are self-aware enough to know you’ll forget, leave the jar in a place you’ll see it daily, leave Post-Its to remind yourself to “Burp the kraut!” because it’s funny. Whatever you do, burp that baby! And Alissa is not kidding about setting the jar in a bowl. It’s an excitable boy.
Possible future cookbook title: “Fermentation: It’s Not What You Stink it Is”