Pickling Naturally : Cabbage Caraway Pickles

Cabbage Caraway Pickles

My interest in pickling has been simmering under the surface for sometime now.  When there was talk among our adult kids that we were gift exchanging cookbooks for Christmas, I made it known that I wanted books about artisan breads and fermentation.  Lucky for me, that’s just what I got!

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Before we go any further, let me say this…It’s natural (for me) when learning a new technique in cooking, to get intimidated.  This process is so easy and safe, don’t waste your time feeling intimidated…just jump in and do it!! Start with a small batch.

Pickling not only helps to preserve vegetables, but it enhances their nutritional value.  They are full of those beneficial enzymes that aid digestion, a probiotic.   In many cases fermentation generates additional nutrients, or removes toxins.  For thousands of years, people of different cultures used natural fermentation (or lactic acid fermentation) to preserve their vegetables.  Since the beginning of industrial food production, however, these foods have almost disappeared, using vinegar (for pickling) in place of the health giving natural fermentation process.  The benefits are numerous a few being; (1,2)LACTIC ACIDLactic Acid (the primary by-product of the fermentation) supports the growth of essential intestinal flora, normalizes acid levels in the stomach, and helps the body to assimilate proteins and iron, and stimulates cell metabolism. The pickles that you find on the grocery store shelves made with vinegar are void of the nutritional benefits these pickled veggies have.  We have a quart jar or two of something brewed in the fridge at all times these days.  One definitely has the liberty to experiment with different flavors and still produce a tasty product, but I recommend keeping it simple by using fewer rather than many ingredients.

Quick and easy, Cabbage Caraway Pickles are extremely delicious on sandwiches, in wraps, on salads, or as a condiment along side whatever is on your plate. We also add them to our layered Mason jar lunch along with leftover whole grains, beans and salad. It’s a convenient way to have vegetables ready for eating.  Once made and fermented they stay good in the refrigerator indefinitely.

This is a very versatile recipe.  I chose to make this with green and purple cabbage just because…ummm, I like color?  I added caraway seeds and red onion for variety.  You can make it your own by using different vegetables and spices, but the process is the same.  Another favorite combo of ours is turnips and beets cut julienne (in match sticks), with fresh basil and dried dill.

Note to Moms of young children; our toddler grandchildren love pickles.  It’s a great way to get them to eat their veggies.

Cabbage Caraway Pickles (makes 2 quarts)

1 small organic green cabbage

1/2 head small purple organic cabbage

1/2 -1 whole organic red onion

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (1/2 teaspoon per jar)

2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt (1 tablespoon per jar)

3 cups filtered water

Before beginning, gather your supplies.  You will need 2 wide mouth clean and sterilized Mason jars, 2 plastic lids (for Mason jars), a tamper for gently pressing the veggies into the jar, a small saucepan, your vegetable cutting knife and cutting board.  Once you have everything ready to go, these pickles come together quickly.IMG_1979 Bring sea salt and filtered water to a boil. Set aside to cool. Before cutting the cabbage, trim off any bruised outer leaves. Discard.   Rinse and peel off one outer leaf and set aside for later use. Shred the entire green cabbage by cutting it in half, then quarters. Cut out the core, turn on its side and shred.  If you’re lucky enough to have a nifty machine that does this for you, go for it.  I make quick work of it by hand.  Repeat with the purple cabbage. Peel and slice the onion into thin crescent shapes. IMG_1981 I kept the vegetables all separate to layer them into the jars, but you can also mix them all together before filling the jars.  It’s hard to judge how much of them you will get into the jars, and you can be more flexible with the quantity of onion and purple cabbage you want to add as you go while layering.

With everything chopped, water-cooled, and caraway seeds handy, start layering the ingredients, gently tamping down every third layer.  Sprinkle seeds in after each rotation until 1/2 teaspoon is used per jar.  This is totally optional.  These pickles are delicious with or without caraway seeds.  Make it your own.IMG_1986 Continue layering and tamping until the jars are well packed, leaving about an inch to and inch and a half headroom and you’ve used up all of your ingredients, or most of them anyway.IMG_1990 Pour the salty water (brine) over the vegetables to cover.  Take the cabbage leaf set aside earlier and tear it to fit over the submerged cabbage.  Press and fit the leaf above the vegetables so that all of the contents are submerged below the water line.IMG_1993 If you need to add more filtered water to cover you can do that now.  Cover loosely with a plastic Mason jar lid. IMG_1995 Place jars in a shallow dish to catch drippings and leave on the counter for 7 days. (I’ve kept them out in the light and a dark cupboard, either way works well). After about 2 days it will start bubbling because the fermentation process has begun.  At day 3 the brine starts to get cloudy.  At anytime during the week you can remove the lid to see how they’re doing and smell their pickling aroma.  If needed, you can add filtered water to keep the contents covered.

Here is what they look like at day 3 –

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And then Day 5 – I removed the lid for the photo, then replaced it to finish the fermentation process.

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The finished pickle at day 7

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A few tips…

* Use unblemished, cleaned organically grown vegetables. Trim off soft and discolored spots.

* Use unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt.  Refined table salt is too fine and can turn out a saltier pickle.

* The chlorine in water can inhibit good bacteria from forming, that’s why filtered water is recommended.

* Metal lids react to the fermentation process. You can purchase plastic lids for Mason jars where they sell canning supplies, or on amazon.com.  If you don’t want to go out and buy lids just create a barrier from the metal with parchment or cheesecloth.

* Speaking of lids, make sure you screw your lid on loosely to allow the brew to breathe.  Starting at day 2 they start to bubble up and may “weep” so a reminder to place your jars on a dish to catch the overflow.

* It’s a good idea to mark the beginning date on your jars.  If your life is as busy as mine, it’s easy to lose track of time.

* Once they have reached the desired flavor, remove cabbage leaf cover, discard, and refrigerate.  The salt keeps them preserved for a long time when refrigerated.

* Daikon radish, celery root, cauliflower, carrots, red radishes, beets, turnips and celery all are delicious pickled this way.  I like to add fresh garlic for flavor too but experiment and make it your own

.* Other blogs I am inspired by that are full of helpful info about pickling are www.nourishedkitchen.com and www.nourishingmeals.com.  Check them out!  

Thanks for stopping by, and happy pickling!


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