Spicy ‘curtido’ – a Central American delight

Curtido 16th December 2020 with Crown Prince squashes in the background

‘Curtido’ is a ferment popular in Central America, similar to (but not the same as) European sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. I’ve been making jars of it over the past few months, mostly based on red cabbage along with onions and carrots, chiles and herbs. Like other ferments, this one never comes out the same way twice, but it always tastes delicious, and can be ready within three days for a fabulous, gut-friendly relish!

There are some tasty commercial ‘curtidos’  available in the UK, but in case you’d like to have a go at it yourself (highly recommended), here’s how I made today’s jar:

Ingredients
1 medium white cabbage (one of the denser varieties) chopped/shredded – you can also use red cabbage, or a mix of red and white (my favourite)
1 carrot, julienned
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 level teaspoon chipotle chile flakes
1 level teaspoon jalapeño chile flakes
1 tsp of Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) Note: Mexican oregano is in the verbena rather than the mint family, and is stronger than the regular oregano we’re used to in the UK, but you can substitute this for two teaspoons of regular oregano)
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin (I heat the seeds in a dry frying pan before I ground them)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup of lightly salted water and apple juice mix (50/50)

Method
Curtido P1070449In a bowl mix the cabbage, carrot, onion, salt, chile flakes, oregano and cumin until evenly distributed. (You can massage the cabbage first if you want to.)

Pour in the apple/water mix.

In a 1 litre Kilner/Mason jar press the vegetables down hard. I use the end of a rolling pin for this, and that gets the juices flowing. You can also use a few whole cabbage leaves to cover the vegetables.

You need to make sure the curtido is covered with liquid, so if necessary, use the cabbage heart to hold the vegetables down firmly when you close the Kilner jar.

Keep in a warm place out of the sunlight (in the winter I used the airing cupboard) and place the jar in a bowl to catch any of the liquid that might (and probably will) escape. These ferments can get fizzy quite quickly. Open the lid once (at least) or twice a day to burp the jar.

This ferment can be enjoyed after as few as three to five days. After about five days I generally place it in a new jar and keep it in the fridge, where it doesn’t remain long!

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