Cuisine Fiend

fermented red cabbage

Thu, 12 March, 2020

Red sauerkraut; fermented red cabbage with a bit of heat and a bit of bite. Who needs kimchi?

fermented red cabbage

FOGO – Fear Of Going Off – is one of the major reasons why food waste in the western world reaches monumentally frightening levels. Past the sell-by, gone use-by, is it still good? better safe than sorry, terror of food poisoning; all of that causes tonnes of perfectly edible foodstuffs to end in the landfill. It’s a sin; it’s a crime.
Overshopping aside, FOGO makes people respect the sell-by dates on the labels like they’d been created by an omniscient being. We’re lost when there’s no date, like in vegetables and fruit. It’s as if we had no longer any sense of smell and sight, or taste at a push. If it looks, smells and tastes good – it’s good to eat. Dairy product labels are especially infuriating: I promise you I use my cream and milk still about a week after the label tells me to. When dairy is off, you really can’t mistake it.

sour red cabbage

We forget that going off under other monikers is actually a desirable method of preparing or preserving food. Aged beef? Why, it’s just nicely rotten. Air dried Parma ham that costs fifty quid per kilo is the meat that very slowly decomposes is special conditions. Raw pork is tough as anything – Parma ham melts on the tongue. It figures – rotting softens the meat.

We can also make vegetables, fruit and legumes go off into something tasty by fermenting. It is thankfully gaining popularity because it brings not only a variety in diet but also friendly bacteria to your gut. Sourdough, then kombucha and finally poor old cabbage is getting some traction – not least thanks to the Korean cuisine and its ubiquitous kimchi.

red cabbage

My version is a kind of fusion: kimchi-style seasoning with chillies and ginger, but I ferment red cabbage, the North European stalwart. I believe that Korean cuisine uses predominantly Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese leaf. Red cabbage is firmer which gives the condiment interesting texture, and who says it can only be cooked for hours with plums and red wine to be served with goose at Christmas?

red cabbage sauerkraut

A word of warning: the cabbage does smell a bit while it ferments, being covered only with a cloth. So if you can house it in a cupboard in a cooler corner of the kitchen, your family won’t suspect you of any horrific wrongdoings.

fermented red cabbage

Servings: makes 1 medium jarTime: 20 minutes plus fermenting over a week


  • ½ head of red cabbage, trimmed and finely shredded
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 1 large red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1cm ginger root
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds


1. Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and massage it into the cabbage thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature overnight.

2. The next day prepare a 1 pound (500ml) jar with a well-fitting lid; rinse the jar with boiling water. Chop the chilli, garlic and ginger finely and add to the cabbage with the cumin and coriander seeds; mix it through.

spiced sauerkraut

3. Transfer the cabbage to the jar gradually, pressing it tight with your fingers or a handle of a wooden spoon. Pour in any remaining liquid so that the contents are submerged. Weigh the cabbage down with a small tumbler or a clean pebble, cover with clean cotton or muslin cloth and leave in a darkish, cool place for 24 hours.

how to ferment cabbage

4. After that time check if the cabbage hasn’t floated to the top; weigh it down and cover again. Leave to ferment for 1 – 3 weeks. Taste a strand after a week if it’s sour enough to your taste. Keep the jar in the fridge closed with the lid.

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Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Paula - don't add water. Just press the cabbage down in the jar really tight and weigh it down with a clean pebble or a small tumbler, so it's as little exposed to air as possible.
2 years ago
Hi, I have left the cabbage and massaged sea salt into it etc but there isn't any liquid? Do I need to add any water?
2 years ago

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